On the heels of this year’s Grammys, I am SO thrilled to be featuring the multiple Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, and author Janis Ian in the first of two posts about her. I don’t gush about many people, but as an audiophile and lover of lyrics, I am an ABSOLUTE fan! Her hit song, “At Seventeen” defined my years as a teenager—awkward, lonely, and introspective.
I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with Janis over the past couple of weeks. She has graciously agreed to support Indies Unite for Joshua, the IndieGoGo campaign for author Maxwell Cynn’s son who is fighting leukemia. Janis’ philanthropy is well documented with her charity, The Pearl Foundation, named after her incredible mother. Given her iconic status, it is an unbelievable honor to have Janis lend her name to our fundraiser. I’d like to give a huge shout-out to poet and editor, R. Jeffreys for making the introduction.
Released in 1975, “At Seventeen” is a bittersweet commentary on teenage angst. I still have the 45 and know the lyrics by heart because I played the record over and over and actually wrote down all the words.
“At Seventeen” was nominated for five Grammys—the most any female artist had ever been nominated for at the time. It won the 1976 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, beating out Linda Ronstadt, Judy Collins, Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy. The song’s parent album, Between the Lines, also hit #1 and went platinum.
“At Seventeen” is a brilliantly composed song which is deeply personal, but the lyrics are as relevant today as they were when the song was first released. Have a listen …
Here is Janis performing “Society’s Child” when she was just sixteen years old on the Smothers Brothers Show.
“Society’s Child” rocked the nation at a time when the Supreme Court had yet to repeal the laws against interracial marriage, and when civil rights unrest was cresting. It was banned across the country by radio stations as “subversive”, a position that was later reversed when the brilliant composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein became Janis’ most vocal supporter. The song went to #1, and Janis was suddenly hanging out with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, appearing on television shows, and getting hate mail. (Portions excerpted from Janis Ian’s website)
Both “At Seventeen” and “Society’s Child” were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
Learn More About Janis Ian
I’ll return with Janis next Monday to list the items she is generously donating for Indies Unite for Joshua. In the meantime, go to her website and see all the wonderful work she has done and continues to do—including a tour starting in April, recording an audio version of her autobiography Society’s Child, and her work for The Pearl Foundation.
Thank you Janis for your amazing kindness and lending your support for Indies Unite for Joshua.