Leah Kuenzi's Blog

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Janis’ Roots: Scars of Sweet Paradise April 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lkuenzi @ 8:30 pm

             According to Echols, Janis Joplin’s wild ride to fame was drastically different, for many different reasons, than any others of her time. Major contributors to her unique experience of finding fame was an alienating childhood and adolescence (both at the hands of her own insecurities, and from lack of acceptance from parents and peers), and her inability to assimilate to the social and cultural “norms” of her time. Though she didn’t experience fame for long, only becoming well-known after the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and dying in October 1970, she made a big impact on many people. These impressions were both negative and positive, for her style of dress, outspoken personality, and refusal to please anyone but herself. Joplin was also a pioneer of the Beatnik counterculture movement, and arguably one of its most controversial members.

            It is very easy to dislike Janis Joplin as a person—she fired her mouth off at everyone around her for the most minor annoyances, and reveled in self-martyrdom. However, throughout reading this book, one of the main things that made Janis Joplin an admirable and endearing personality was that she never really left her roots. Though her roots appear to have been a conventional life in Port Arthur, Texas, Echols establishes early on that Janis had her own idea of what roots were. It seems apparent that she never betrayed her most initial inclinations of standing out in a crowd. As illustrated by a story about Janis as a young child, sleepwalking clear out of Port Arthur and claiming that she was going home, it seems as though she may her never made it there. Despite her desperate need for peer- and self-approval, Janis’ life was extremely isolated. But there were certain things that never changed. From the first time that Janis headed west to San Francisco, she developed an affinity for making a scene, standing out, speaking out, and showing out. Even when she became famous and wealthy, she filled her house with used furniture and bought a used Porsche. Janis, at the very least, never became what she said she’d never become.

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