A top-notch biography of one of the greatest performers to emerge from a brilliant era.

A richly detailed, affectionate portrait of the legendary singer.

George-Warren (A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man, 2014, etc.) builds this illuminating biography of Janis Joplin (1943-1970) from interviews with surviving members of her family, band mates, and friends from all eras of her short life. Raised in Port Arthur, Texas, where her father was a refinery engineer, Joplin was a rebel who showed a talent for art. She was an outcast in high school, especially after she began patronizing the segregated venues where she could hear black artists perform live. She had also discovered the Beats, which gave her a picture of a lifestyle she began to emulate. In college, she began to sing with traditional folk groups, showing off a voice inspired by blues legend Bessie Smith. After dropping out, she made her way to San Francisco, where she joined Big Brother and the Holding Company. The most talented of the group, she attracted a devoted following and began to indulge in the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The author follows her tours with the band as well as her offstage life, which was full of sex and drugs. Touchingly, she still hoped for acceptance by her conservative family, as indicated in her letters home. After two albums, she had outgrown Big Brother and signed a record contract as a single artist with a new backup band. She was as big a star as any in the business, although her erratic lifestyle occasionally caused her to cancel dates. As her last album, Pearl, demonstrated, she continued to grow as an artist, but her death from a heroin overdose at age 27 cut her promising career short. George-Warren gives her subject a sensitive yet honest treatment, showing all dimensions of Joplin’s life without minimizing her self-destructive side. Filled with evocations of the San Francisco music scene at its height, the narrative will give readers new appreciation for Joplin.

A top-notch biography of one of the greatest performers to emerge from a brilliant era.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9310-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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