NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t



FRESH AIR: In the 1960s, Janis Joplin was an icon of the counterculture, a female rock star at a time when rock was an all-boys’ club. “At that point in time there weren’t too many women taking center stage,” biographer Holly George-Warren says. “Janis created this incredible image that went along with her amazing vocal ability. … [She] was very, very different than most of the women that came before.” On stage, Joplin oozed confidence, sexuality and exuberance. It all seemed so effortless, but George-Warren describes Joplin as a bookworm who worked hard to create her “blues feelin’ mama” musical persona. “She was a real scholar of music. … She didn’t want people to know how hard she worked,” George-Warren says. “She wanted people to think she was just this vessel, or this megaphone, or something that was just up there on stage, and the music and emotions were just coming out of her.” George-Warren says she decided to write about Joplin after listening to tapes from the Columbia Records vault of the singer’s recording session with producer Paul Rothchild for the album Pearl. (The album was released posthumously in 1971, following Joplin’s fatal overdose in 1970.) “Rothchild [is] known for being this very authoritarian producer, but … Janis was just coming up with idea after idea,” George-Warren says. “She was basically co-producing this record with him. And that turned my head around. … I realized that that part of her story had not been told.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Talking Alex Chilton With Rock Biographer Holly George-Warren