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Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin [Kindle Edition]

Alice Echols
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
You Save: $11.11 (56%)
Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

Janis Joplin was the skyrocket chick of the sixties, the woman who broke into the boys' club of rock and out of the stifling good-girl femininity of postwar America. With her incredible wall-of-sound vocals, Joplin was the voice of a generation, and when she OD'd on heroin in October 1970, a generation's dreams crashed and burned with her. Alice Echols pushes past the legary Joplin-the red-hot mama of her own invention-as well as the familiar portrait of the screwed-up star victimized by the era she symbolized, to examine the roots of Joplin's muscianship and explore a generation's experiment with high-risk living and the terrible price it exacted.

A deeply affecting biography of one of America's most brilliant and tormented stars, Scars of Sweet Paradise is also a vivid and incisive cultural history of an era that changed the world for us all.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

To call Janis Joplin the Judy Garland of the Woodstock set is in some sense a fair characterization. The brassy, carnal, extravagant, and ultimately pitiable queen of psychedelic rock is indeed a cultural icon. And while Joplin reveled in her own ballsy, boozy legend, its needy, inebriated, real-life equivalent was a shadow that darkened her short life and, in the decades since her 1970 drug-induced death, has come to eclipse the party-girl persona.

To her great credit, author Alice Echols reconciles the two faces of Joplin in this ambitious, thoroughly readable biography. She does so by tracing Joplin from her youth as a natural-born libertine in dreary Port Arthur, Texas, to her emergence as the sole female rock superstar of her era--a period when beneath-the-surface sexism hampered Joplin's progress even while women's liberation was being widely touted. The author does not shy away from sordid sex-and-drugs episodes, and there's plenty of raw material---the singer was promiscuous, bisexual, and, at various times, an alcoholic, a speed freak, and a junkie. Echols, however, elevates this biography above run-of-the-mill rock profiles by painting her subject against an elaborate and ever-changing cultural backdrop. Here is Joplin the aspiring folksinger, the white-picket-fence wannabe, the wayward daughter, the hit-and-miss recording artist, and, finally, the ill-starred spirit with nothing left to lose. --Steven Stolder

From Publishers Weekly

In the introduction to this richly textured biography of the trailblazing blues-rock superstar who succumbed to a heroin overdose in 1970, Echols (Daring to Be Bad) informs us that she is not going to give us "a blow-by-blow account of Janis's every fuck and fix." That is not to say that Echols sidesteps the sordidness of Joplin's short life. There's certainly enough drug use ("She even shot up watermelon juice one day") and sex (with both women and men) to keep the reader titillated. But by tracing Joplin's place in the psychedelic movement?vibrantly reconstructed here through more than 150 interviews?Echols presents the singer not just as a rock casualty but as a contradictory icon of female power, "neither just the ballsy chick who helped throw open the doors of rock 'n' roll nor the little girl lost who longed for the white picket fence." Joplin's outrageousness?her sexual conquests, inhuman consumption of Southern Comfort and eventual heroin addiction?is presented as an expression of her insecurities. Stifled in her hometown of Port Arthur, Tex., by rigid gender roles and the cruel taunts of fellow teenagers who thought she was ugly and weird, she turned her teenage rebellion into a successful career as rock's first down 'n' dirty bad girl. Outside of Port Arthur, however, she found that even the hip Haight couldn't handle a woman who was neither a folkie nor the girlfriend of some guy in the band. Rock critics may have loved her, but as Echols reveals, even they seemed more concerned with her raw sexuality than with her talent: following the Monterey Pop Festival, which launched Joplin's career, the L.A. Free Press ran an article titled "Big Brother's Boobs" while Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice wrote, "To hear Janis sing 'Ball and Chain' just once is to have been laid, lovingly and well." 140 b&w photos.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 745 KB
  • Print Length: 433 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0805053875
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (February 15, 2000)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BY5XRHS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,065 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant biography and counterculture history December 16, 2004
Format:Paperback
This brilliant book is both a biography of Janis Joplin and a cultural history of the 1960s. Scars Of Sweet Paradise is a very thorough and in-depth look at Joplin's life and times and at the same time an exploration of the quiet suburban life versus the lure of the counterculture. The bohemian underground, unlike some idyllic portrayals of it, had its share of cynicism and destructiveness.

Much of this book deals with this evolving underground as it relates to the music, gender relationships and the merger of art and commerce. It is the story of a generation's restless and reckless life on the edge, from which Janis and many others never returned. The author conducted over 150 interviews and spent 5 years on research to produce this comprehensive work on Joplin and her era.

The Janis that emerges is a complex, multi-faceted personality that inspires admiration and sadness. The story begins in Port Arthur where Joplin's early life is described, including her first exposures to rock and folk music. It follows her to college and her first taste of the bohemian life then on to her first visit to San Francisco and eventual return to Port Arthur.

She went back to SF and her career began to take off. It is fascinating to read about the colourful personalities that she mixed with in San Francisco: the friends, the lovers and the musicians. Echols is a skilful narrator, seamlessly blending Joplin's moves and her relationships with the rise of her career. There are plenty of quotes from contemporary musicians that really illuminate this mythologized period in history.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Forgotten" December 22, 2001
Format:Paperback
In a very real way Janis Lyn Joplin is very much a "forgotten". You hardly ever hear her stuff on radio- with the possible exception of "Me and Bobby McGee". And for my money, her one and only (and unforunately, posthumous) Number 1 is quite thoroughly unrepresentative of her as an artist or person. Forgotten Janis Joplin, like another Forgotten Janis- Janis Martin- the "female Elvis".
Some colleges apparently now include Janis as a feminist icon, or at least woman of note, and at least some interest is now being restored in her as a major figure in popular cultural history.
Echols' work is a very well written chronology of the first major female rock star's short life. There is no sensationalism, no unsubstantiated rumour that isn't stated as being so, and no attempt by the author to over-psychoanalysis her subject.
You come away from this book with an understanding as to the enormous talent that Janis possessed, and how dealing with it with her insecure mindset ultimately led to her very untimely demise.
It is also clearly the most credible, and creditable biography of Janis currently available: Amburn's book is clearly sensationalist; Myra Freidman's (including the revised edition) comes from someone who didn't know Janis first hand that well; Dalton does not cover enough ground, and is more of a personal account; and sister Laura's "Love, Janis" is antithetical to Amburn- a glossing over of the sex and drugs in favour of just how nice, but misunderstood, Janis was.
Echols also frames her subject within the context of the times in which she lived. Again, no judgement, no sensationalism. Another prick for the bubble of the illusion of the Woodstock myth that the "hippies" were all innocent flower people.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rereading the 60s January 26, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Janis Joplin is an exquisite focal point around which the life and times of the era she lived in are profoundly illuminated. It's been said that if you can remember the 60s, you probably weren't there. I can now vouch for accuracy of that statement. So much of what Ms. Echols writes about is material that would have completely disappeared, considering the mind bend of the participants. It's a hard book to take, especially if you, or one you love, is an offspring of this generation. I know this happened to me. The book should be read at least twice. It's really not about Janis Joplin; it's about a ridiculously impaired time of fun, laughter, sadness, and tears. It's also a time of many blanks, which Ms. Echols has caused to surface. I recommend this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent chronicle of the woman and the culture. April 14, 2003
By Igrayne
Format:Hardcover
This book was such an interesting read that I had a hard time putting it down. Ms. Echols delves into Port Arthur in a way that is very similar to that of Mary Karr. She also looks at aspects of Janis that have not been well-contructed before this. The milieu of San Francisco and the 1960's music scene there is shown in an open and matter-of-fact way. The beginnings of the bands were more haphazard than I ever realized.One cannot understand a person unless they understand the politics and atmosphere, as with this remarkable musician.
On the personal side, Janis was a woman who wanted what we all want- to love and be loved. Echols defines where many of us let one another down by not being honest with others when they are in too deep.
As Janis wrote "It's so sad to be alone."

I highly recommend this biography to fans and people who are interested in the culture of the times.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent bio
Sensitively written and well-researched bio on Janis. Shows her in all her many sides, both endearing and frightening. A fitting tribute to this misunderstood singer.
Published 4 days ago by Susan L. Stedman
4.0 out of 5 stars Janis Joblin Book
Still reading. Easy to follow, great photos
Published 2 months ago by K. Hinkle
4.0 out of 5 stars which may have been too much to ask from the story of that sad life.
Ah the sixties! This book shows how it wasn't all beer and skittles, and how no amount of liberation, even if derived from sex, drugs and rock-n-roll fame, can mend a broken heart. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Peter R. Ramsey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Bought it for a gift and she loves it. She doesn't read much, but she loves this one.
Published 3 months ago by Pammypoo
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you love Joplin and want to know more about this...
This book is a long read, but it is well worth the time.
I guess you might call it Joplin without the tinsel............... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Gary J. Chenett
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great life of Janis as well as a fascinating overview of an era.
Published 5 months ago by George Doeltz
3.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet
Pretty good but a sad ending of course. I also read Janis' sister's book and they balance each other out perspective-wise.
Published 6 months ago by Maurice A. Hillman
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book
Iv'e read all the other available books over the years on Janis and this is the best one. It also gives a great overview of what was going on with the scene.
Published 7 months ago by D. Fast
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I wanted.
I'm interested in reading about this singer. I like the fact that I can buy a used book, in reasonable shape at an affordable price.
Published 7 months ago by Loretta Myers
4.0 out of 5 stars A book you can trust (or so it seems)
I bought this book because I discovered that Janis Joplin had recorded many more records/songs than I knew, when I opened an archive with her songs. Wow! An overload! Read more
Published 7 months ago by Tancredo Braga
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