Monday, April 7, 2008
Janis Ian was born on this date in 1951. Ian wrote and recorded her first hit, "Society's Child," when she was only 15; it was released three times before it finally became a hit in the Summer of Love. Leonard Bernstein had seen Ian perform the song at the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village, and asked her to sing it on a TV special he was doing. That helped propel it into the Top 15.
That meant Janis was a star by the time she was 17, but apparently while she was on the road, she started inventing lovers on the phone, and was able to write "At Seventeen" when she was 24. "I had to move back into my mom's house because I was broke and I couldn't make any money on the road," Ian later said. "I was sitting at the kitchen table with a guitar one day, and I was reading a New York Times article about a debutante, and the opening line was 'I learned the truth at 18.' I was playing that little samba figure, and that line struck me for some reason. The whole article was about how she learned being a debutante didn't mean that much. I changed it to 17 because 18 didn't scan."
Recognizing that women would respond to the song better than men, Ian sent the record to the wives of radio station program managers, and it became a Number Three hit in 1975. Ian sang this song on the first-ever episode of Saturday Night Live.
Janis Ian is not related to Scott Ian of Anthrax.