CASSANDRA JENKINS — Meeting Janis Joplin biographer Holly George-Warren

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Janis Joplin is a rock-and-roll icon. Her influence reached far and wide around the world, but nowhere else can claim to be the birthplace of the queen except for Port Arthur.

Joplin was born here on Jan. 19, 1943, subsequently two days after my own birthday, many years later. Several weeks ago, I learned more about the singer-songwriter than I ever knew before when I interviewed Holly George-Warren, Grammy-nominated author of “Janis: Her Life and Music” over the phone.

Saturday, I met the woman in person at a book-signing event at the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

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Her influence, much like Janis’ own, was evident from the moment I stepped into the tightly packed room and saw a line snaking out towards the gift shop with people eager for a name on a page. This was just proof that legends live on through those who choose to remember, write and share their own and others’ experiences.

So as I snaked my way through the crowds to properly introduce myself to George-Warren, I couldn’t help but think of all the people who were there and why they felt close to Janis. Were they family, old friends, fans or just happy to be a part of history?

I waited several moments at the side of the table before finding a brief opening to introduce myself. George-Warren looked up and smiled, thanking me for the articles I had written up until that point, even asking for a few copies of the newspaper.

I realized one thing in that moment — history matters. All these people were in line because they loved Joplin in some way. They felt connected to her story and her history as they waited eagerly for a signature.

George-Warren, as a biographer, felt connected to Joplin’s history and a connection to the rock-and-roll era that she herself grew up in.

As a newspaper reporter, my history felt as if it mattered when George-Warren asked for a hard print paper, even though she had the digital copy sitting in her email.

Going back to our first phone interview, George-Warren said she wanted her book to focus on Janis’ music and journey as a musician and not her ending.

“We know, horribly, the end of the story, but I wanted it to be her life, her approach and her discovery of music,” she said. “I wanted the excitement of her life to be the focus.”

Looking around the museum at everyone’s faces, hearing tidbits of conversations and seeing smiles as I exited the building sometime later, I realized that is exactly what she did.

Cassandra Jenkins is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at