Forty years after her death, Janis Joplin still fascinates. During a remarkable music career spanning hardly more than three years, she soared to the heights of rock-and-roll fame with a blues-inflected voice and an electric stage presence that could set a stadium on its feet. Then suddenly, at age twenty-seven, she was gone. Her tragic death by drug overdose has become an iconic example of the price of fame, yet, as author Ann Angel shows, it was more complicated than that. -from the book jacketI've always had a sort of voyeuristic fascination with celebrities who died young, especially those who died from drug overdoses. So when I saw that this book, about the life and death of Janis Joplin, won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Non-fiction for Young Adults last week I knew I had to get it for my library and I knew that I had to read it. The book arrived today and I read it the same day. “From the cover art and the interior design to the compelling personal narrative, this is a pearl of a book,” said YALSA Nonfiction Award Chair Don Latham. I agree.
Sometimes when I read nonfiction I really want to dig deep into a subject and to learn as much as I can, other times I just want to get a bit of information and to be entertained at the same time. This book falls into the second category. I didn't want to know every minute detail of Janis Joplin's short life, I just wanted to learn a little bit. What kind of person was she is high school? What kind of training did she receive to be able to sing with that unique blues voice that so captivated her audiences? Why did she use drugs and why was she so insecure? The book answered all my questions and entertained me with photos and artwork related to her life and career. It was perfect for my level of interest.
I confess that I came home from work today to see if I had any Janis Joplin on my iTunes. Nope. So I went to the iTunes music store and listened to four or five snippets of her most popular songs. Yup, that gal could sing. What a pity that she died so young. But on the other hand, perhaps we still like her because she did. Who knows? If you have even the tiniest bit of interest in the life of Janis Joplin, I recommend this book. It is worth the hour or two it will take to read it.