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Janis Ian

A singer/songwriter both celebrated and decried for her pointed handling of taboo topics, Janis Ian enjoyed one of the more remarkable second acts in music history. After first finding success as a teen, her career slumped, only to enter a commercial resurgence almost a decade later. Janis Eddy Fink was born on April 7, 1951, in New York City. The child of a music teacher, she studied piano as a child and, drawing influence from Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, and Odetta, wrote her first songs at the age of 12. She soon entered Manhattan's High School of Music and Art, where she began performing at school functions. After adopting the surname Ian (her brother's middle name), she quickly graduated to the New York folk circuit.

When she was just 15, she recorded her self-titled debut; the LP contained "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)," a meditation on interracial romance written by Ian while waiting to meet with her school guidance counselor. While banned by a few radio stations, the single failed to attract much notice until conductor Leonard Bernstein invited its writer to perform the song on his television special Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The ensuing publicity and furor over its subject matter pushed "Society's Child" into the upper rungs of the pop charts, and made Ian an overnight sensation.

Success did not agree with her, however, and she soon dropped out of high school. In rapid succession, Ian recorded three more LPs -- 1967's For All the Seasons of Your Mind, 1968's The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink, and 1969's Who Really Cares -- but gave away the money she earned to friends and charities. After meeting photojournalist Peter Cunningham at a peace rally, the couple married, and at age 20, she announced her retirement from the music business. The marriage failed, however, and she returned in 1971 with the poorly received Present Company. After moving to California to hone her writing skills in seclusion, Ian resurfaced three years later with Stars, which featured the song "Jesse," later a Top 30 hit for Roberta Flack.

With 1975's Between the Lines, Ian eclipsed all of her previous success; not only did the LP achieve platinum status, but the delicate single "At Seventeen" reached the Top Three and won a Grammy. While subsequent releases like 1977's Latin-influenced Miracle Row, 1979's Night Rains, and 1981's Restless Eyes earned acclaim, they sold poorly. Ian was dropped by her label and spent 12 years without a contract before emerging in 1993 with Breaking Silence (the title a reference to her recent admission of homosexuality), which pulled no punches in tackling material like domestic violence, frank eroticism, and the Holocaust. Similarly, 1995's Revenge explored prostitution and homelessness. Two years later Ian returned with Hunger; God & the FBI followed in the spring of 2000. A live set, Working Without a Net, appeared from Rude Girl Records in 2003, and a DVD, Live at Club Cafe, saw release in 2005. Folk Is the New Black appeared as a joint release from Rude Girl and Cooking Vinyl in 2006. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Secret Life Of J. Eddy Fink / Who Really Cares

1. Everybody Knows

2. Mistaken Identity

3. Friends Again

4. 42nd St. Psycho Blues

5. She's Made Of Porcelain

6. Sweet Misery

7. When I Was A Child

8. What Do You Think Of The Dead?

9. Look To The Rain

10. Son Of Love

11. Baby's Blue

12. Time On My Hands

14. Love You More Than Yesterday

15. Orphan Of The Wind

16. Sea And Sand

17. Galveston

18. Do You Remember?

19. Month Of May

20. Calling Your Name

x

Track List: Billie's Bones

1. Billie's Bones

2. My Tennessee Hills

3. Paris In Your Eyes

4. Marching on Glasgow

5. I Hear You Sing Again

6. Forever Young

7. Matthew

8. Amsterdam

9. Dead Men Walking

10. Save Somebody

11. Mockingbird

12. Mary's Eyes

13. When I Lay Down

x

Track List: God & The FBI

1. God & The FBI

2. On The Other Side

3. Janis Ian & Willie Nelson / Memphis

4. Jolene

5. When You Love Someone

6. Play Like A Girl

7. Days Like These

8. Boots Like Emmy Lou's

9. She Must Be Beautiful

10. The Last Comeback

11. Murdering Stravinsky

x

Track List: The Bottom Line Encore Collection

2. Night Rains

4. Jesse

7. Silly Habits

8. Memories

10. At Seventeen

11. Stars

12. Society's Child

13. At Seventeen

x

Track List: Society's Child

Disc 1

1. Society's Child

2. Too Old To Go 'Way Little Girl

3. Hair Of Spun Gold

4. Then Tangles Of My Mind

5. I'll Give You A Stone If You'll Throw It (Changing Times)

6. Pro-Girl

7. Younger Generation Blues

8. New Christ Cardiac Hero

9. Lover Be Kindly

10. Mrs. McKenzie

11. Janey's Blues

12. A Song For All The Seasons Of Your Mind

13. Honey D'Ya Think

14. Bahimsa

15. Queen Merka & Me

16. There Are Times

17. Lonely One

18. Sunflakes Fall, Snowrays Call

19. Evening Star

20. Shady Acres

21. Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind

Disc 2

1. Everybody Knows

2. Mistaken Identity

3. Friends Again

4. 43nd St. Psyco Blues

5. She's Made Of Porcelain

6. Sweet Misery

7. When I Was A Child

8. What Do You Think Of The Dead?

9. Look To The Rain

10. Son Of Love

11. Baby's Blue

12. Time On My Hands

13. Love You More Than Yesterday

14. Orphan Of The Wind

15. Sea And Sand

16. Galveston

17. Do You Remember?

18. Month Of May

19. Calling Your Name

20. And I Did Ma

x

Track List: Breaking Silence

x

Track List: Between The Lines

1. When The Party's Over

2. At Seventeen

3. From Me To You

4. Bright Lights And Promises

5. In The Winter

6. Water Colors

7. Between The Lines

8. The Come On

9. Light A Light

10. Tea & Sympathy

11. Lover's Lullaby

x

Track List: Present Company

1. The Seaside

2. Present Company

3. See My Grammy Ride

4. Here In Spain

5. On The Train

6. He's A Rainbow

7. Wearly Lady

8. Nature's At Peace

9. See The River

10. Let It Run Free

11. Alabama

12. Liberty

13. My Land

14. Hello Jerry

15. Can You Reach Me

16. The Sunlight

x

Track List: Folk Is The New Black

1. Danger Danger

2. The Great Divide

3. Life Is Never Wrong

4. Jackie Skates

5. All Those Promises

6. Standing In The Shadows Of Love

7. The Drowning Man

8. The Crocodile Song

9. The Last Train

10. My Autobiography

11. Home Is The Heart

12. Shadows On The Wind

13. Haven't I Got Eyes

14. Joy

15. Folk Is The New Black

Comments

Report as inappropriate
scottiemom20 9
Yup I agree this bio leaves a LOT out and yeah who cares if she's gay--actuall y she's gay and proud of it and married!!
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Deep deep song. Lots of angst. Powerful
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I remember my parents not liking my sister siting on the front porch and spinning the LP with, "Society's Child". That was the late 60s. They especially didn't like that song. We lived in Detroit. My parents claimed Not to be racist. Closet racist, no doubt. My older sister is dead now, but I will listen to Janis Ian for the rest of my life. Quite a song writer, perfomer. Very nice indeed.
The world is slowly becoming a better place.
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Bravo, jsheehan.
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Dear Jason: Does one admit to homosexualit y ? Maybe a hundred years ago, but Victoria is no longer queen. I expect your next review to contain, and John Denver admitted he is heterosexual . Or someone male.
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jhh1515
The bio leaves out the incredible contribution of songs which Janis wrote and other singers recorded. She is prolific and profound. She is also a writer, humorist, and sci-fi fan - having written sci-fi lit. Pretty amazing person!!
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I love the song At Seventeen because I remember listening to it when I was 17. I felt she was singing about me. But, life was just beginning and it just takes time for wonderful things to happen.
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I love this song!!!!....
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A brave song writer
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abeck11
Ÿu
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My God-what a breathtaking presentation of this song.
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Gracias, Janis, for your beautiful songs.
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Janis, thank you!
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Love this song. I remember watching on king biscuit hour.
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familyprior
Thanx so much for your lovely voice to those of us in loneliness & and your voice says & makes everything ok. Maybe we are the lucky ones
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lauri.dahir
Wow- I haven't heard this tune in years! Great memories!
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At seventeen!
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roseann.geno v e s e
include society's child
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paulhot1959
One of my favorite albums (rather obscure) is Uncle Wonderful. I don't think I've ever seen it mentioned. You would almost not recognize her.
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thank you, universe, for Janis Ian ~!~
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Janis remains my all-time favorite artist for decades.
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Why isn't Aftertones listed as one of her albums?
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donna.beamer 6 6
Janis Ian's birthday is April 7; I just saw her in concert last weekend and we sang Happy Birthday to her. Please update this information on your website. Refer to Wikipedia.co m for verification , if needed. Thank you!
Report as inappropriate
Forgot to mention the 1967 debut LP is great too. The CD compilation Society's Child covers those early years very well. Hard to believe a teenager was so prolific. Can you say Prodigy?
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ago is a must read.
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I have been a fan since 1975. Saw her in concert at Radio City and Carnegie Hall in the 70s and many times since. Very memorable show at the Bottom Line in late 80s. And all over California from 1993-2008. Between the Lines is a classic, must own album. And Stars is great too. Frankly, her work was not that good in the 80s.Then she retired, returning finally with Breaking Silence in early 90s. Her albums since then have been good, but not great. Her autobiograph y , which came out a few years a
Report as inappropriate
When I miss my mom....Janis Ian is there! I am 45 and could sing every song she has written as my mom just loved her!
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mattiemam
I wore out at seventeen and miracle row. My travel song between the lines. Love this woman
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Janis has been an incredible songwriter, singer and guitarist since age 12. She should have been much more famous.
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Love her love her love her
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rcampau
I am pretty sure she was born in April.
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angelofmcy
Her song, Getting Over You, is one of my favorites. She sings it with such emotion, it will bring you to tears. She has a beautiful voice.
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montezuma7
when I was 9, I was in Dubrovnik in the summer of 69. Janis Ian's first album was there and it opened my aquarian mind I have never looked back nor away from the difficult subjects. Her activism begot my active life in reform!
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yvonne.winn
It's still true. We all play the games whether we like it or not, all the while playing Janis's records!
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still sounds great
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Friend of mine always refers toAt Seventeen as her favorite. Love the lyrics.
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mysterious.g e n i e
Agree with Kevin...far too underrated and overlooked. I think this is due (unfortunate l y ) to the fact that she did not try and create a sex appeal, which points to the gleaming disparity between male & female artists. No one would hold Dylan's or Tom Waits looks against them (actually, it helps their artistic persona). Nonetheless, equally as important a songwriter as Dylan or Paul Simon.
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I just saw her in concert last evening in Saugatuck, Michigan. At the age of 60 Janis still has "it". You go, Girl!
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dnparker58
can I add Mary Gauthier to this list of Janis Ian radio
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Glad to see she is still around. She is so easy to listen to!
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Perhaps one of the most under-rated and over-looked artists in the history of Contemporary music. My personal favorite would have to be a toss-up between "Belle of the Blues" from the "Aftertones" album, and "Hotels and One Night Stands" from the self titled "Janis Ian" album. I have been a big fan since the very first time I heard "Society's Child" back in the early 60's, having been lucky enough to live in NYC where the song was not banned. Janis was, and still remains, perhaps my all-time fav
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jehotr
So glad to hear she is still singing. I first bought her album, Society's Child when I was 15, just a year younger than she. I was so amazed at her poetic and singing voice. She encouraged me to write poetry. Maybe it was ok to have something to say.
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Janis Ian has been so good for so long it's scary. Love the early stuff, love _God and the FBI,_ love her autobiograph y .
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rcampau
I think she was born in April not in May.
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ddick5150





What about Miracle Row? I was just ambitious enough in the late 70"s to get the piano book. With Janis behind you how can you lose?
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My favorite song by this amazing artist is "Sweet Sympathy." Similarly with all of you I agree. We need the people to include morals within the messages conveyed by music. The Hunger album is slightly depressing, but Stars is above them all (i.e. Jessie and Applause). She really can pull emotions and invoke emotions on all levels.
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I just saw Janis live for the first time and was overwhelmed with her incredible talents. Her voice was so pure and clear and her guitar playing was perfectly suited to each song. Just her for 2 hours. It was truly a wonderful experience. Don't stop!!

Kathy
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moxielady459 1
Began listening to "Society's Child" while in college. Unbelieveabl e voice & very direct lyrics. We need more of this type of music. Music to make us listen and think. Not just noise to cloud our senses & behaviors... .
Report as inappropriate
jtenonefour
I wish there was a way for her to re-release her remarkable album from 1983, RESTLESS EYES. Every song on there is a lesson in songwriting!
Report as inappropriate
You really have to respect this woman. She has a lot of guts and an incredible knack for conveying honesty. I first became familiar with her through "At Seventeen," but the more I learn about her, the more I admire her strength and courage. We need people like this out there creating music.
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