Janis Ian 1951–
(Born Janis Fink) American songwriter, singer, and musician.
Ian is recognized as an important songwriter whose works are characterized by a deep feeling for humanity and a contempt for injustice. According to Ian, her pessimistic songs of teenage dilemmas reflect not her own circumstances but the confusion and rebellion felt by many teenagers during the mid-sixties. In a straightforward, concrete manner, Ian confronts such contemporary problems as prostitution, loneliness, interracial love, and religious corruption. Ian's lyrics are praised for their poetic quality, and her false rhyme scheme has been compared to that of Emily Dickinson. At the age of twenty, after four years of trying to cope with success in a world where the more experienced considered her a child, Ian dropped out of the music scene. Four years later, however, she began recording new material. Ian views her return not as a comeback, but as a separate life, for now she feels she is better able to handle the life of a pop star. The lyrics of these works convey Ian's matured outlook and satisfaction in her new role.
Ian's first hit single, "Society's Child," concerns a love affair between a white girl and a black boy. Ian not only attacks the adults who disapprove of the relationship, but also the girl, who relents under society's pressure and rejects her love. Banned by radio stations across the United States until Leonard Bernstein introduced Ian on a television special, the song eventually rose to number one on the charts. Ian's early albums were moderately successful, inspiring a small but strong following.
Ian's lyrics had mellowed somewhat by the time she recorded Stars, her first album after returning to the popular music business. The songs on Stars still discuss teenage problems, but the anger of her earlier work is conspicuously absent. Her next effort, Between the Lines, reestablished her reputation as an important songwriter. It has received mixed reviews, but there is at least one outstanding song, "At Seventeen," in which Ian explores the "ugly duckling" syndrome many teenage girls face. Ian's subsequent albums have also received mixed reviews, and her confirmed followers remain comparatively small. However, her observations on contemporary issues and society present a stark and revealing message.
[Janis Ian] is a national phenomenon, a composer and singer who makes bitter poetry of teen-age dilemmas. Her most successful record, entitled Society's Child, detailed the woes of interracial dating…. Her first album, [Janis Ian, touched] heavily on prostitution, corrupted religion and children…. The second album, [For All the Seasons of Your Mind], explores such subjects as suicide and loneliness. Her folk songs, tinged with funereal dissonances, tear up the old folks at home. Their lyrics are outbursts at squaredom, declarations of independence from contemporary U.S. society. Yet, despite the refractory content of her music, she is that society's child. (p. 53)
Parents who finesse their parental responsibilities rank high on Janis Ian's long list of things bad….
Janis doesn't have much use for false gods either….
Just what exactly has happened to this girl to provoke such [disillusioned] lines?
"I saw all the hypocrisy up front, and I devised ways of getting around it. Love is groovy." She pauses. "Hate is the ultimate insanity."
Not altogether clear perhaps, but it is talk which makes perfect sense to a generation weaned on Dylan, Donovan and the Beatles, a generation which pays as much attention to the words as the music. (p. 56)
"I Am Society's Child," in Life (courtesy of Life...
(The entire section is 220 words.)
The youth movement in the music biz was given a tremendous boost [recently] when Janis Ian made her concert bow to a near-capacity audience. Only 16 years old, Miss Ian stunned her peers and her elders with the power of the material…. Miss Ian's celebrated number about an inter-racial love affair, "Society's Child," was only a partial tipoff on the calibre of this girl's compositional talents. She can write blues, rock and folk on any topic, from prostitution, old age homes, masochism, suicide, self-pity to the Vietnam war. As remarkable as the material, even more striking was the absence of precocity or self-consciousness.
"Janis Ian, 16-Year-Old Folksinger, Whams House at Philharmonic Hall, N.Y.," in Variety (copyright 1967, by Variety, Inc.) December 13, 1967, p. 45.
(The entire section is 121 words.)
Sixteen-year-old Janis Ian has a message. But whether its content is reality or fantasy, one theme is predominant—disintegration of the mind, leading to mental destruction of society….
[In a recent live performance, the] recording artist methodically and unemotionally spelled out her message in song. With her crisp voice, she soared to the heights while dousing her audience with her macabre incantations. Insanity, frustration and apathy, Vietnam, poverty and loneliness—she sang them all—each with the same pessimistic view towards destruction. She sang of love, yet the air was fraught with death. She laughed, but there was a morbid echo….
[It] is hoped that she doesn't take all her lyrics to heart. She has the makings of one of this generation's greatest poets.
Hank Fox, "Janis Ian's Messages: How to Succeed by Being Grim," in Billboard (© copyright 1967 by Billboard Publications, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. 79, No. 51, December 23, 1967, p. 16.
(The entire section is 149 words.)
[Among contemporary lyricists, Janis Ian] is second as a poet only to John Lennon (certainly) and Dylan and the Airplane's Slick-Kantner-Balin combination (maybe). She does not indulge in the obscurantist, free-associational quasi-poetry that passes for profundity among many of her contemporaries—and elders. She has, instead, the rather quaint notion that words are designed for meaningful communication. Which does not mean that she is simplistic or obvious—merely that most of her songs mean something, and mean it in an original, striking, but understandable way.
Janis deals, in her songs, with real contemporary problems in a concrete manner: dishonesty, lack of communication, the suicidal impulse. And just when you think she's taking the facile, kids-under-25-against-the-world hard line, she turns on her own world (and herself) and deflates it: Honey D'Ya Think deals with the phonily hip, Shady Acres with the irresponsibility of kids toward parents, and Society's Child—the most famous instance—with not only the bigotry of the older generation but the sheeplike, albeit unwilling, imitation of that bigotry by the younger.
She is the first to admit that many—too many—of her first songs concern problems considered (sometimes wrongly) exclusively adolescent. (p. 16)
Yet her songs are a sensitive delineation of adolescence….
I have referred to her...
(The entire section is 412 words.)
[The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink is] a real down. It's pretty awful, despite containing some interesting elements. There are only three truly good songs on it: Friends, Misery and Son; I include the latter on the basis of some rich, imagistic lyrics.
Friends is delightful, a loving parody of Dylan's c&w-tinged stuff, performed with exactly the right balance between mockery and conviction (except when Janis breaks up at one point). The words aren't parodic, for the most part, though they catch the flavor of Dylan in early songs like Don't Think Twice and All I Really Wanna Do. And I Did, Ma, on Janis' second album, was pure comedy, and can't be listened to very often; Friends invites rehearing.
Misery is one of the few hard rock things Janis has tried, and it works pretty well: good words…. (p. 19)
[Psycho] is really a shame: it's a bitter, heartfelt and much-needed indictment of the sordid side of the music business, but the words are clumsy (because too strongly felt?). Janis is beginning to labor images of self-prostitution, strong when she first employed them but now losing their impact. Similarly, the metaphor of a narrator (singer) needing a blind man to show him the way, which appears in Psycho, had worn thin eons ago. (pp. 19-20)
But for this record, if you can find copies of the lyrics, you'll...
(The entire section is 281 words.)
The first thing that struck one about Janis Ian was her youth and the precocity of her talent. (p. 205)
It was in 1966, after her dramatic first appearances at Green-wich Village's Village Gate, that Janis made her first album for Verve-Forecast [Janis Ian]. Immediately the record earned the admiration of the educated public, but also the disapproval of the Establishment. This was due to the most noticed song on the album, "Society's Child," which tackled the problem of racial discrimination in a new fashion and without mincing words: for a schoolgirl of fifteen, not a bad start.
Why so much hassle over a song? Making use of an episode in the life of one of society's children (one would like to think that it is Janis Ian herself, but she has definitely stated that it is not), she attacks, all at the same time, racial discrimination, familial authority, the reactionary antiquity of the educational system, the contempt for love, the alienation which is its result, through the fact that at least temporarily a young white girl resigns herself to accepting what she is told, to stop meeting the young black whom she loves. Lyrically and musically, the "schoolgirl" doesn't miss a trick.
Certainly, her education in song is established on a base that she herself has defined as "Baezo-Seegerian" [referring to folksingers Joan Baez and Pete Seeger] and, as she has often said, since she grew up with folk...
(The entire section is 635 words.)
[I find Janis Ian interesting because she uses a] powerful cerebrum more to move people than to impress them. Sometimes she overdoes it and works for shock value alone…. In such cases, she's merely doing what worked so well before—Society's Child, written when Janis was a little kid, separated the liberal men from the liberal boys. But she is a prodigy growing up, and her later work deserves a larger audience. (p. 60)
Noel Coppage, "Troubadettes, Troubadoras, and Troubadines … or … What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Business Like This?" in Stereo Review (copyright © 1972 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 29, No. 3, September, 1972, pp. 58-61.∗
(The entire section is 105 words.)
Seven years after the success of Society's Child, a watershed topical song written when she was fifteen, Janis Ian is back, at the age of twenty-two, with songs composed during her own private season of hell. Always one of the most sensitive of composer/performers, often hypersensitive in live performance, she has at last stopped meandering artistically and [on "Stars" has] come to some positive conclusions: yes, the public will eat you alive if you let it, but she still wants to be a Star; yes, she was deeply in love with Jesse, and though he's gone she's still in love (You've Got Me on a String). However, she's still looking around (Sweet Sympathy) and has a pretty good idea of what kind of life she wants with any new love (Page Nine), and, what-the-hell, life goes on anyway (Applause). The old bitter rage is evident only once here, in Dance with Me, in which her fury over the contemporary American scene can send smoke spiraling out of your speakers. It's very strong, tough stuff, and it makes Lauro Nyro and some of the other female composers of protest songs sound like the bluestocking mumblers of bitchery that they often are (I loved it).
Unfortunately there still lingers an air of veiled contempt, a touch of the common scold, about Ian's performances which often contradicts the more positive sense of the lyrics. I don't mind it, but I know that others do and will be...
(The entire section is 323 words.)
In her soft-spoken way, Society's Child, Janis Ian, deserves mention for all her credible tunes on Between the Lines. Alternating between eerie nostalgia and low-key hysteria, her violin pathos is straight out of a Max Ophuls melodrama, and that's not half bad. Janis plays the ugly duckling, the hardheaded waif with the heart of gold. She plays with her pain, is a perfect candidate for Janov's primal scream therapy, but instead sublimates the hurt into mellow, melodic sighs. Between the Lines is a studiously earnest attempt at self-discovery and Ian asks only that you meet her somewhere in the middle of your life, and hers. (p. 69)
Susin Shapiro, "Rock around the Crotch," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1975 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), May, 1975, pp. 68-9.∗
(The entire section is 129 words.)
There's a song on ["Between the Lines"] about a spotty-faced 17-year-old who never gets the Valentines or dates, the lyrics of which work fairly well until we remember that it is hardly autobiographical…. [Janis Ian] was closer to the beauty queens in her song, who marry young and then retire, than to the abandoned and unrequited heroines of it…. I realised that, once again, Janis Ian was failing to say anything particularly noteworthy about one of her chosen subjects. She affects now to disown ["Society's Child"], but because of the historical and social context within which it appeared, her "shocking" song about a love affair that crossed the colour line was important at the time, no matter how naive and even offensive it may be in retrospect. In contrast, nothing she produced during her current come-back has that sort of relevance. The voice has matured, the tunes have that sort of instant acceptability and equally instant forgettability which fills up a remarkable number of albums still, even in these days of alleged austerity, the production is immaculate, and none of it matters a jot. Society's child in America today has different needs and problems than those she touches on but hardly illuminates in her lyrics. Which doesn't mean she should be writing more "political" songs, but a seemingly significant writer should surely be aware [that] what happens to a couple when they are between the sheets doesn't stop at the bedroom door. Sometimes,...
(The entire section is 266 words.)
Janis Ian was one of the authentic voices of the Sixties, one of the street kids who told it exactly as it was without any of the "poetic" trimmings. She directed her coruscating wit, gelid eye, and scolding fury as much at the opportunists of her own generation who were corrupting the dream as at the society that feared and brutally repressed anyone not stamped out by the cookie cutter. But Ian seems to have paid a high price for her own involvement and convictions. She came back about a year ago with a new album, and, aside from a lot of media palaver about her now being able to accept being a "star," it never really went anywhere beyond reminding her old fans that she was up and about again.
"Between the Lines" seems to be another water-treader, but it has one brilliant track: At Seventeen, not about Viet Nam but about an ugly duckling, is filled with the same pitiless observation and ice-hard anger as her earlier work…. A popular lyric that actually implies that someone has learned something, that things do sort themselves out, given enough time, that experience can result in wisdom. And there's not a touch of cosmic Melanie or Laura Nyro style. At Seventeen is just a simple story about a girl-woman. But then so is [Gustave Flaubert's novel] Madame Bovary.
It would be too much to ask that the rest of the album measure up to that gem, but there are some other nice things here: the...
(The entire section is 405 words.)
["Between the Lines"] is one of those rarities—a best-seller that focuses on musicianship. Though not without its flaws, "Between the Lines" has substance and depth, qualities absent from Ian's adolescent career and her hit song of those years, "Society's Child," a bristling tirade against adult injustice. This precocious hit was followed by "Janey's Blues," "Honey Do Ya Think?" and "New Christ Cardiac Hero" which zeroed in on dishonesty, exploitation, lack of communication, even suicidal impulses. At 15-going-on-16 Ian became the urchin at large, pinpointing the hypocrisies of society, ever at the mercy of its mores, wounded by its snubs….
Her songs of the late sixties, lacking even a ray of sunshine, began to sound vaguely familiar; moreover, her accompaniment, often awkward, could not support her often powerful verbal images. No wonder that her career seemed to terminate at age 20.
In 1974, Janis Ian's "comeback" was launched with the release of … "Stars," a collection which got mixed reviews, but much praise for its title song, a vivid and poignant self-portrait. "Between the Lines" … reveals "Society's Child" as a grown-up, worldly woman. Along with several forgettable tracks, there are four, possibly five outstanding productions.
"Watercolors," a moving portrait of a flawed lover and a fading love affair, is the finest song in the album….
On "Between the Lines" Ian's...
(The entire section is 379 words.)
Janis Ian has grown into a charming, mature singer-songwriter. There is surely some of the snotty kid in there somewhere, but what was once called uppityness is now called arrogance….
Recently, with the re-release of her very first recordings, that pretentious teenager has come back to haunt Janis Ian….
Listening now to "Society's Child," "Janey's Blues" or even "New Christ Cardiac Hero," all songs on that first album, one has to allow for the period of time during which they were made. It was a time of musical exploration, the emergence of folk-rock as a viable form; a time of great self-righteousness and pretension. What does shine through is the quality of both Janis' musical ideas and voice. She makes Tanya Tucker seem like some shallow upstart as she wails through strong lyrics with poise and emotional intensity. No wonder teenagers who prided themselves on their "sensitivity" went ga-ga over this album…. [The] album screams, "Beware: Sensitive Artist At Work."
Many of Janis Ian's recent songs, like "Stars" and "At Seventeen," seem to refer to this period of her life. (p. 52)
Since the beginning of her career, Janis has made good, yet uneven albums. From the very first, she had a tendency to be wordy, perhaps in an attempt to do a Dylan. But Dylan has the rare ability to stuff a song with a hundred disparate images and still thread the whole thing into an emotionally...
(The entire section is 540 words.)
Melancholic self-pity and petulant revenge would appear to be the two main colors in Janis Ian's rather precious, nearly monochromatic rainbow. At her infrequent best, this chronically forlorn artist is sometimes able to elevate the former hue into genuinely moving introspection and the latter into valid social criticism, but too often she seems strangely content to tell us how fashionably miserable she is and that it is all our fault. Ian does not lack talent—"At Seventeen" and "Water Colors" from Between the Lines are fine songs—but could sorely use an unfettered sense of humor and the ability to separate the posture of sensitivity from the perceptions of selectivity.
Listening to Aftertones is somewhat like hearing an Amy Vanderbilt treatise on the emotional etiquette of a Doomed Outsider who "measures out the time in coffee spoons" …, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Exceptions are the Dylanesque "Boy I Really Tied One On" and the LP's best song, "This Must Be Wrong."… "I Would Like to Dance" is okay, too.
Janis Ian, Janis Ian, stop living your life like a soap opera. Cut the pettiness and the poetaster's crap, and maybe we'll love you for who you really are: Mickey Spillane trying to pass for Johnnie Ray at the high school prom. (pp. 66, 69)
Paul Nelson, "Records: 'Aftertones'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1976; all rights...
(The entire section is 232 words.)
Janis Ian has arrived. The ugly duckling of Society's Child has, all these years later, become the most glittering and luminescent of swans. ["Aftertones"], her best album to date, is one of those joyous things that probably happen only once in an artist's lifetime: that particular moment when everything that has gone before finally coalesces into sustained, articulate, and controlled statement. The intelligence is remarkable, the craftsmanship superb and the attack dazzling throughout. Stay tuned, because there is going to be a great deal more said about this album—and I hope to add my own strong feelings to what has become the happiest success story in current popular music. Buy it, of course, and while you are listening remember that old bromide about the hare and the tortoise.
Peter Reilly, "Popular Discs and Tapes: 'Aftertones'," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1976 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 36, No. 5, May, 1976, p. 84.
(The entire section is 148 words.)
FRED De VAN
The elusive Janis Ian "Queen of the melodic bittersweet" has again emerged into the public eye as a major artist. Her introspective, self-evaluation type lyrics have finally found their time and audience…. [Her] images of love are both full-blown and cautiously sultry. Her images touch on areas that in one way or another exist in all of us. Her love songs are a full indication of this maturation.
The songs in Between The Lines are all strong, and total good taste is to be found in every note and word on the record. (p. 82)
In Aftertones, her music like her words, is the work of a serious musical artist, charged with the competence of a committed energetic artist…. The album is eloquent, she gets it all on.
Aftertones is her only album without a "supersong," yet it hangs together so well as to be enchanting from start to finish. This Must Be Wrong, Aftertones, Belle Of The Blues, Don't Cry Old Man and Hymn all have that look of whimsy, warmth and wisdom that has always been a part of this young woman. Each song on the album has its own special magic. Janis Ian has emerged from a puckish, arrogant kid to a real stand-up and take-notice artist. (pp. 82-3)
Fred De Van, "The Column: 'Between the Lines' and 'Aftertones'," in Audio (© 1976, CBS Publications, The Consumer Publishing Division of CBS Inc.), Vol. 60, No. 6,...
(The entire section is 237 words.)
Most of Ian's new material [on Miracle Row] recycles old musical ideas, again evoking the hypocrisies of social rituals and romantic encounters. However, these miniatures are problematic due to the obsessiveness of Ian's craft: by combining melodramatic chords and claustrophobic rhymes, she reconstructs her psychological perceptions too literally.
Still, there are a couple of nice moments. "I Want to Make You Love Me" has a more relaxed melodiousness than one customarily associates with Ian, and the ambitious "Miracle Row/Maria" successfully evokes a complex relationship between two women. But nothing here can compare with "At Seventeen" and "Water Colors," which are Ian's two finest songs because they blend her propensity for psychodrama into a broader narrative scheme. Maybe Ian should develop her ability to be expansive as well as clinical. (p. 79)
Stephen Holden, "Records: 'Miracle Row'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1977; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 234, March 10, 1977, pp. 78-9.
(The entire section is 154 words.)
["Miracle Row"] is a disappointing production and contains no songs of the At Seventeen/Watercolors caliber found on Ian's best-selling "Between the Lines" album. (p. 144)
[Crucial] to the failure of "Miracle Row" is its dearth of strong material. Many of the new songs are inferior recyclings of old ideas. Party Lights, Let Me Be Lonely, Slow Dance Romance, Will You Dance? and I'll Cry Tonight in one way or another all touch on a theme that Ian has treated more directly in the past: the plight of the grownup wallflower who can't get over the traumas of teenage rejection, even as she recognizes the hypocrisy and shallowness of the rituals that caused that trauma. Only in the ambitious diptych Miracle Row/Maria, a detailed psychological portrait of the relationship between two women, does Ian extend herself beyond the short-form still-life songs that seem increasingly like carbon copies of a single humorless and self-pitying idea. (pp. 144-45)
Stephen Holden, "Backbeat Records: 'Miracle Row'," in High Fidelity (copyright © by ABC Leisure Magazine, Inc.; all rights reserved; excerpted by permission), Vol. 27, No. 4, April, 1977, pp. 144-45.
(The entire section is 182 words.)
With Miracle Row Janis Ian is no longer the "poor, sad dear" her many fans perceived….
Janis' writing has grown…. It is not so self-centered. The remaining traces of what has evidently been self-pity and self-righteousness are turning quickly into maturity. Songs such as Take to the Sky and the building Candlelight reflect this growth. The grand finale of the intertwined stories Miracle Row/Maria is as impressive a piece as she has ever put together.
Michael Tearson, "The Column: 'Miracle Row'," in Audio (© 1977, CBS Publications, The Consumer Publishing Division of CBS Inc.), Vol. 61, No. 5, May, 1977, p. 89.
(The entire section is 97 words.)
Janis Ian is for the trendies one of the most exciting, red-hot writer/performers in pop at the moment; for the rest of us she's definitely here to stay. With "Miracle Row,"… she has seized for herself the title of Girl Most Likely to Get Pop off Its Moribund Ass in the Late Seventies.
Like the lady herself, "Miracle Row" exudes theatricality. It has equal amounts of the high romance of the low life and the jaded, dark-red-nail-polish lows that accompany the high life. Ian's theatricality, like that of another Great Proletarian, Bertolt Brecht, may not be immediately discernible, but it is there. She, too, chooses street argot as her lyric form, and the non-chalant gut punch seems to be her favorite device. But she is more than an artistic descendant of Brecht in her sardonic, toughly humorous acceptance of an existential world in which the cunning, the avaricious, and the brutal all too often float to the top while the Lumpen below devour each other in desperation—she is also Brecht's Pirate Jenny come to stinging, poignant, poetic life.
Like Brecht, Ian is an angry artist. In the years succeeding Society's Child, her first musical outburst at the age of sixteen, it was touch and go as to whether or not the anger would consume the artist. At Seventeen, that bitter little paean to the arid joys of "settling for" (from "Between the Lines," her second "comeback" album) gave notice that the old...
(The entire section is 550 words.)
[Janis Ian] has proved herself to be one of the most important writer-performers of the Seventies, and she looks at and into you from the cover photo with a veiled stare that can X-ray a situation, the people in it, and the probable outcome easily, knowingly, compassionately.
Janis Ian operates in the pop-music business, which perhaps denies her the instant credentials the fancier literary and artistic worlds might provide. But what she's been creating for the last several years is a body of work that, for awareness and insight into life as it's being lived (or played) in our time, stands creditably alongside the best in any field of contemporary creative expression…. ["Janis Ian"] finds Ian in a more subdued and contemplative mood than the flash and fireworks of her previous "Miracle Row." There isn't anything here that raises the emotional temperature in quite the same way as, for instance, Party Lights, or the grim Latin melodrama of Will You Dance? did. But, while most of the material here may be emotionally in a minor key, it is some of the most assured and elegant work of her career. In this group of eleven songs, literal meaning often gives way to less logical—but equally valid—color, mood, and texture. The key song seems to be the last one, Hopper Painting. It isn't about Edward Hopper, or even about one of his paintings. Instead, it is an ambiguous piece, either about Ian herself or about someone...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
As far as hype goes, it may have been all over for Janis Ian when she quit writing hit songs about being an ugly teenager with a hit song. But as her craft matures, Ian's lyrics get more distilled, her emotions more subtle, the brisk melodies more distinctive. And her best numbers have become the kind of adult love songs that make singers cry and other composers bite their lips….
[Janis Ian] contains at least three tunes ("That Grand Illusion," "Tonight Will Last Forever," "Silly Habits") as fine and strong as her classic "Jesse."…
The LP has mistakes, but they are few: the solo-piano backing on "Hopper Painting" grows dull, and "The Bridge" presents an embarrassing string of corny metaphors about "the oceans of our lives." Otherwise, the new disc's delightful consistency makes it easy to empathize with the veiled bitterness of "Hotels & One-Night Stands."…
Despite their considerable virtues, Janis Ian and 1977's Miracle Row have gone practically unnoticed. Why the huge successes of "At Seventeen" and Between the Lines haven't carried over to Ian's subsequent work is a complete mystery to me.
Don Shewey, "Records: 'Janis Ian'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1979; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 287, March 22, 1979, p. 64.
(The entire section is 206 words.)
[In the early 1960s, the genre of teen songs had "the boy-friend" as their central theme. The demons of teendom were the other girls. Parents] were another conflicting force. Her parents usually disapproved of Jimmy or Eddie or Johnny, and made vague but forceful class distinctions to keep the lovers apart. Their objections were met with either rebellion or death. Only Janis Ian capitulated in "Society's Child," breaking the mold. (p. 77)
Outside of a few songs written by Shirley Owens and the Shirelles, Shirley Ellis' dance numbers, and a few songs Lesley Gore wrote after the teen vogue had subsided [in the late sixties], the majority of the teen singers were interpreters of other people's material. An adult, predominantly male sensibility codified the teen genre laws.
George [Shadow] Morton discovered and produced the one exception, Janis Ian, the prodigious teenaged singer-songwriter whose folk-based melodies and social concern went beyond the pale of teen sensibility.
Ian was part of a new generation. She identified more with Bob Dylan than with the Shangri-Las. Since she was sixteen years old at the time, she was the first and only authentic teen composer and writer who singly created her own songs.
"Society's Child," the song that flung her to the attention of a large audience, was a statement that blended the social concern of the folk movement with the teenaged feeling of...
(The entire section is 730 words.)