Love, Janis

Love, Janis

by Laura Joplin


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A revealing and intimate biography about Janis Joplin, the Queen of Classic Rock, written by her younger sister.

Janis Joplin blazed across the sixties music scene, electrifying audiences with her staggering voice and the way she seemed to pour her very soul into her music. By the time her life and artistry were cut tragically short by a heroin overdose, Joplin had become the stuff of rock–and–roll legend.

Through the eyes of her family and closest friends , we see Janis as a young girl, already rebelling against injustice, racism, and hypocrisy in society. We follow Janis as she discovers her amazing talents in the Beat hangouts of Venice and North Beach–singing in coffeehouses, shooting speed to enhance her creativity, challenging the norms of straight society. Janis truly came into her own in the fantastic, psychedelic, acid–soaked world of Haight–Asbury. At the height of her fame, Janis's life is a whirlwind of public adoration and hard living. Laura Joplin shows us not only the public Janice who could drink Jim Morrison under the table and bean him with a bottle of booze when he got fresh; she shows us the private Janis, struggling to perfect her art, searching for the balance between love and stardom, battling to overcome her alcohol addiction and heroin use in a world where substance abuse was nearly universal.

At the heart of Love, Janis is an astonishing series of letters by Janis herself that have never been previously published. In them she conveys as no one else could the wild ride from awkward small–town teenager to rock–and–roll queen. Love, Janis is the new life of Janis Joplin we have been waiting for–a celebration of the sixties' joyous experimentation and creativity, and a loving, compassionate examination of one of that era's greatest talents.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060755225
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/16/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 146,556
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.16(d)

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Love, Janis

By Laura Joplin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Laura Joplin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060755229

Chapter One

October 1970

What good can drinking do?
What good can drinking do?
I drink all night,
But the next day I still feel blue

-- Janis Joplin, "What Good Can Drinking Do?"

In the fall of 1970 I was living a graduate student's bohemian life in a roomy Victorian apartment in a seedy neighborhood in south Dallas, Texas. Sunday afternoon, October 4, 1970, I spent quietly at home. I made myself a cup of tea and stepped from the kitchen to walk through the dining room. Pouring through the large window, the brilliant afternoon sunshine soaked my body.

I paused as thoughts fleetingly passed through my mind until I was grabbed by an overwhelming desire to speak with my sister. I hesitated, thinking of the trouble I would have if she didn't answer the telephone -- the difficulty of trying to prove to whoever picked up the phone that I was really Janis Joplin's sister. Then the hesitation vanished. Walking toward the telephone, I was thrilled by that unique bond I had with my older and more daring sister.

I had last seen Janis during the middle of August 1970. Our relationship had a special constancy that went beyond time apart and dissimilar lives. We didn't always agree and sometimes shared heated words about our differences, but that would drop away each time we met. In August we had talked about sex, romance, marriage, careers, cars, houses, clothes, our hometown, her fame, and our family. When we parted, we had planned to get together in California at Christmas, when I had time off from graduate school.

By the time I walked across the yellowed oak floor to the telephone beside my bed in the living room, the compulsion to call had evaporated. I felt no reason even to try. But the thought would come back to me that night. Why hadn't I called? I went to bed early, readying myself for a busy class schedule the next day. I was fast asleep, relaxed under the quilts, when the telephone rang.

"Janis is dead," my father's tense voice stated simply. It was one o'clock early Monday morning. The startling words seemed unreal. I pulled myself from sleep just enough to answer, "No." He repeated, "Janis is dead." I shook my head as though trying to throw the unwanted words out, repeating insistently, "No." Shock slammed into my heart and hardened it like ice crystals. Janis was dead.

My roommate appeared from her bedroom, knowing something was wrong. "Janis is dead," I repeated to her. She disappeared and reappeared with two aspirins and a glass of water. "What are these for?" I asked. "Take them," she urged, trying to give me the kind of comfort an American knew best. I downed them, knowing I hadn't the vaguest idea of how to stop the ache. I cried myself into a troubled sleep, wondering, Why didn't I call her this afternoon?

The next day my parents telephoned, saying they were going to Los Angeles to settle Janis's affairs. My brother, Michael, and I did not go, as our parents wanted to keep us away from the cameras and press attention. Crowds of people had gathered outside the Landmark Hotel, where she lay, as word slowly spread among her friends. Police stretched out the official yellow KEEP OUT ribbons and the crowd milled and shivered in confusion, frustration, grief, and shock.

Mother's sister, Barbara Irwin, lived in Los Angeles, and she helped my parents with the necessary arrangements. They met Janis's attorney, Robert Gordon, whose elegance and firmness both comforted and frustrated them. From Bob they learned the details of Janis's death and about the stipulation in her will that her body be cremated and her ashes scattered off the California coast near Marin. My parents were anguished. Not only had they lost their firstborn daughter, but they couldn't even take her home for a proper burial.

Before he left Texas, my father had told me that they weren't sure of the cause of Janis's death. It might be a drug overdose, but it could also be that she passed out, fell, and suffocated in the shag carpet. When they got to California, they neglected to call me, they were so consumed by their duties there. I wandered around Dallas in a vacuum of facts, hearing the litany on the radio and the gossip of the partially informed in the halls of Southern Methodist University's classroom buildings.

I became furious at those faceless rock-and-roll people who had considered themselves Janis's friends. How could they let her do heroin? Everyone was doing drugs, including me, but heroin was different! She should have known better! They should have stopped her! Didn't anyone care enough to intervene? I chastised myself for not having been a better sister and knowing about the heroin. Why didn't someone do something? Most of all I blamed her role as the Queen of Rock and Roll, that lofty perch from which no mortal woman could hear caution or wisdom.

The coroner's report was soon final, and the verdict was an overdose of heroin. She had only been using for a few weeks, taking it as a late-night relaxer every third day or so, after a hard day recording a new album for Columbia Records.

My parents wrangled with Bob Gordon, and he fretted with the press, the police, and the coroner to ensure a quiet ceremony for the family to pay their last respects. In a funeral chapel they said goodbye to Janis while my brother and I both sat in confused isolation in separate Texas towns.

Nothing showed the weaknesses in our family quite like the way we handled Janis's death. We had no funeral to attend as a family. There was no grave for a later pilgrimage. There was no wake full of loved ones who could share our affection and our loss. We cried alone ...


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