Janis Ian was born Janis Eddy Fink. She was only 15 when she scored a hit record in 1967 with her depressing interracial love song Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking).
The song entered the US Top 40 on 17 June 1967 making #14 but was banned by many radio stations as subversive (since the lyrics dealt with an interracial relationship forbidden by the white girl’s mother and frowned upon by her peers).
DJ s who broadcast the song ran the risk of being fired or attacked by outraged members of the public: indeed, one Louisiana DJ was allegedly murdered after playing it on air.
Not wishing to rest on her teenage laurels, Janis outdid herself in a big way, breaking #3 in the US in 1975 with At Seventeen, a self-loathing lounge song that tempted a whole generation of teenage girls to shove their heads into a trash compactor . . .
At Seventeen relates how, at the age of 17, Ms Ian made the startling discovery that physically attractive people are more popular than unattractive people (at 18, she found out that gravity makes things fall).
It remains one of the few – if not only – anthems for gawky adolescent girls who spend evenings alone gazing at the phone, hoping some boy will call them.
Amazingly, the song failed to chart in the UK, despite a fair amount of radio exposure. The song won Janis Ian the Grammy Award for Best Female Performance.
The album Between the Lines was also a smash and reached #1 on Billboard′s album chart, selling over one million copies in the US.
Fly Too High (1979), produced by disco producer Giorgio Moroder, was Ian’s contribution to the soundtrack of the 1980 Jodie Foster film Foxes and became another international hit, reaching #1 in many countries, including South Africa, Belgium, Australia, Israel and the Netherlands.
In the US, Ian did not chart in the Top 40 on the pop charts after At Seventeen, though she had several songs reach the Adult Contemporary singles chart through 1980.
From 1982 to 1992, Ian continued to write songs, often in collaboration with then-songwriting partner Kye Fleming, some of which were covered by Amy Grant, Bette Midler, Marti Jones and other artists. She released Breaking Silence in 1993 and also came out as a lesbian.
Roberta Flack had a hit in 1973 with Ian’s song Jesse, which peaked at #19 on the Billboard pop charts. Ian’s own version is included on her 1974 album Stars.
Janis Ian continues to tour worldwide, though she stated that her 2022 North American tour would be her last full tour.