This week Janis Ian celebrates her 68th birthday and I’ve been a fan of hers since I first heard Fly too High, a number 44 hit in 1979.
She was born Janis Eddy Fink in born in New York but raised on a farm in neighbouring New Jersey. In 1965, she wrote her first song, Society’s Child which was controversial at the time because it was about an interracial romance which the girl’s mother had forbidden and that sort of thing was frowned upon at that time. It was released in 1967 and reached number 14 on the Billboard singles chart. Because of its subject matter some radio stations banned it. The title of that song lent its name to Ian’s autobiography in 2008 in which she tells how she received hate mail and occasional death threats at the time.
She signed with CBS records in the 1973 and released the album Stars the following year. That album contains the song Jesse which was covered by Roberta Flack. The following year she released Between The Lines (which is my all-time favourite album) and contains probably her most famous song, At 17 which made number three in America and won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, it has since become her signature tune.
She married Tino Sargo, a Portuguese filmmaker in 1978 but divorced five years later. After that, she moved to Nashville and met a lady called Patricia Snyder with whom she began a relationship. Her album, Breaking Silence in 1992 revealed her coming out as a lesbian and would marry Patricia the following year.
She still records and performs live, mainly in the US and, in 2001, became an author when she started writing science fiction books.
Let’s enjoy this performance of Tea and Sympathy (from the Between the Lines album) on the Old Grey Whistle Test.