SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Janis Ian had her first Grammy in 1975 with her hit, “At Seventeen.” Almost 40 years later, she had her second.
Her 2013 Grammy award was for “Best Spoken World Album” for her autobiography, “Society’s Child,” beating Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Ellen Degeneres and Rachel Maddow.
“Given the competition, I was pretty astonished,” said Ian.
Raised in New Jersey and attending East Orange High School, the music icon will be returning to New Jersey to showcase at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, on Saturday, April 20, at 8 PM.
“Five minutes from my cousin’s house,” Ian said, adding, “We have a good deli.”
Born in a New York hospital, Ian grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, where she said there was always a lot of music in her family. Her mom was a singer and her dad played piano.
By age 2 she was playing piano and by age 10, she was playing guitar.
“I was born with talent,” she said, confidently.
Ian had so much faith in her talent that even her choir teacher couldn’t deter her. She said, “She didn’t like my voice. I thought she was an idiot.” Ian knew what she wanted to do and feels that those who are discouraged easily are in the wrong business.
By age 13, Ian wrote the controversial hit, “Society’s Child,” which was about a forbidden interracial romance. “Society’s Child” reached number 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Because the hit was so controversial and she received a lot of criticism from the press and public, Ian decided to leave the music business for four years. She said, “I did a lot of reading … listening … I continued to work, hone my skills.” And then by the age of 24, Ian scored another hit with “At 17.”
Ian’s work has appeared in dozens of film and television projects including “Murder She Wrote” and “Foxes” starring Jodie Foster.
Dozens of artists have recorded her songs, including Joan Baez, Etta James, Michael Jackson, Cher, Ute Lemper, Glen Campbell, and Nina Simone – to name a few.
When asked, of all the artists who recorded her work, who was her favorite, Ian hesitated to answer at first. “I would get in terrible trouble,” she said, and laughed. Then she added, “I think Celine Dion, ‘At Seventeen,’ did an amazing job.”
And even though Ian made such a great mark in musical history, it doesn’t bother her that young musicians today tend to forget their roots, as recent American Idol contestants admitted to not knowing who the Beatles are.
“Every generation has to invent its own wheel,” Ian said.
In addition to having a career in music, Ian is also a columnist and a science fiction author. Ian couldn’t comment on what she does when she’s not working because she is always working. “Writing … recording … traveling … shows,” she said. “The tour itself is time consuming.”
As her final thought, Ian noted that she will be greeting fans and signing autographs at the SOPAC show. She encourages her fans to “Come, bring vinyl and books to sign.”
Janis Ian will be at South Orange Performing Arts Center, on Saturday, April 20, at 8 p.m. For tickets go to: http://www.sopacnow.org/
For more information on Janis Ian, go to: http://www.janisian.com/