Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Janis Ian

Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Janis Ian talked with me this week about her autobiography, "Society's Child: My Autobiography". Her book is her life certainly, but it also gives a glimpse into the times. Janis said to me:
"If I could make it a book thats as much about the times as it is about me then I might be able to write something that's not just a self-serving piece of crap."

Her first hit, "Society's Child" at 15 created a huge stir with its interracial marriage themes. She received death threats and radio stations were hestitant to play the song. To Janis, growing up in a neighborhood with more black people than white people, it was a song about life. Same with "At Seventeen". Remember the moving lyrics?

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired.
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth.
And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the
Who called to say come dance with me
and murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems
At seventeen.

What was evident to me, in reading "Society's Child" was that Janis had grown up in the world of music certainly, but more broadly in a world of artistic expression that included music, art and certainly, reading. She said to me:

"Books showed me that I wasn't a freak that there were other people like me in the world. I could basically know the world through books in a way that pre-internet you could never have known the world."

Tune in for our conversation this week. Or check the archive.

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