Janis Ian (born Janis Eddy Fink, April 7, 1951) is an American songwriter, singer, musician, columnist and science fiction author.
“She was younger than forever.
She was older than goodbye.”
Wiki– “Born to a Jewish family in New York City, she was primarily raised in New Jersey and attended East Orange High School in East Orange, New Jersey and the New York City High School of Music & Art. Her parents, Victor (a music teacher) and Pearl, ran a summer camp in upstate New York. In that Cold War era they were frequently under government surveillance because of their left-wing politics. Ian would allude to these years later in her song God and the FBI.
As a child she admired the work of folk pioneers such as Joan Baez and Odetta. Starting with piano lessons at the age of six or seven, Ian, by the time she entered her teens, had learned the organ, harpsichord, French horn, flute and guitar. At the age of 12, she wrote her first song, “Hair of Spun Gold,” which was subsequently published in the folk publication Broadside and was later recorded for her debut album. In 1964, she legally changed her name to Janis Ian (her new last name being her brother Eric’s middle name).
At the age of 13, Ian wrote and sang her first hit single, “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking)”, about an interracial romance forbidden by a girl’s mother and frowned upon by her peers and teachers. Produced by George “Shadow” Morton and released three times from 1965 to 1967, “Society’s Child” finally became a national hit upon its third release after Leonard Bernstein featured it in a CBS TV special titled Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The song’s lyrical content was taboo for some radio stations, and they withdrew or banned it from their playlists accordingly; in her 2008 autobiography Society’s Child, Ian recalls receiving hate mail and death threats as a response to the song, and mentions that a radio station in Atlanta that played it was burned down. In the summer of 1967, “Society’s Child” reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, the single having sold 600,000 copies, and the album 350,000.”
An astonishing performance by 16 year old Janis on the Smothers Brothers show…
“Ian relates on her website that, although the song was originally intended for Atlantic Records and the label paid for her recording session, the label subsequently returned the master to her and quietly refused to release it. Years later, Ian says, Atlantic’s president at the time, Jerry Wexler, publicly apologized to her for this. The single and Ian’s 1967 eponymous debut album were finally released on Verve Forecast; her album was also a hit, reaching #29. In 2001, “Society’s Child” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings considered timeless and important to music history. Her early music was compiled on a double CD entitled Society’s Child: The Verve Recordings in 1995.
“Society’s Child” stigmatized Ian as a one-hit wonder until her most successful single in the United States, “At Seventeen”, a bittersweet commentary on adolescent cruelty, the illusion of popularity, and teenage angst, as reflected upon from the perspective of a 24-year-old, was released in 1975. “At Seventeen” was a major hit, receiving tremendous acclaim from critics and record buyers alike—it charted at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female beating out Linda Ronstadt, who was nominated for her Heart Like a Wheel album; Olivia Newton-John; and Helen Reddy.
Ian performed “At Seventeen” as a musical guest on the debut of Saturday Night Live on October 11, 1975. The song’s album, Between the Lines, was also a smash and hit #1 on Billboard’s Album chart. It was quickly certified Gold and later earned a ‘Platinum’ certification for sales of over one million copies sold in the US. Another measure of her success is anecdotal: on Valentine’s Day 1977, Ian received 461 Valentine cards, having indicated in the lyrics to “At Seventeen” that she never received any as a teenager.”
This was one of my dad’s favorite songs; I nearly wore out the album as a kid and still have his 45…
“Ian reached the pop charts only once more after “At Seventeen” (“Under the Covers”, #71 in 1981), though she had several more songs reach the Adult Contemporary singles chart through 1980 (all failing to make the Top 20, however). She walked away from her CBS contract in 1982 while it still had three albums to go. Ian deliberately spent much of the 1980s and early 1990s without a record deal. During the 1982–1992 period she continued to write songs, often in collaboration with songwriting partner Kye Fleming, which were covered by the likes of Amy Grant, Bette Midler and Marti Jones. She also studied under acting coach Stella Adler and struck up a close friendship with her, which continued until the latter’s death in 1992.
Ian finally became one of the first “indie artists,” resurfacing in 1993, with the release of Breaking Silence and its title song about incest. She also came out as a lesbian at the time of the release of that album. On 6/25/1993, Ian appeared on The Howard Stern Show, where she performed a “new” version of “At Seventeen” about Jerry Seinfeld.
Ian’s album, Folk Is The New Black, was released jointly by the Rude Girl and Cooking Vinyl labels in 2006. It is the first in over 20 years where she did all the songwriting herself.
Other artists have recorded Ian’s compositions, most notably Roberta Flack, who had a hit in 1973 with Ian’s song “Jesse”, also recorded by Joan Baez and Dottie West; Ian’s own version is featured on her 1974 album Stars (the title song of which has also been oft-covered, including versions by Cher, Nina Simone and Barbara Cook). Other artists who have recorded or performed songs written or co-written by Janis Ian include Amy Grant, Jeanette Dimech, Sheena Easton, Michele Pillar, Mel Torme, Michelle Wright, Bette Midler (“Some People’s Lives,” a song written by Ian and her then-partner Kye Fleming, became the title song of her 1990 album), Jann Arden, and Japanese singer Shiina Ringo (covered Ian’s breakthrough Japanese hit, “Love Is Blind”).
Ian continues to tour, with a round of concerts scheduled for the United Kingdom in the Spring of 2014, and a series of appearances in the US after that.”
My all-time favorite Janis song…Enjoy!