Janis Ian – a truth teller with her songs – Keith reblog

Published March 8, 2021 by Nan Mykel

 

About twenty years ago, my wife and I got to see a concert where two old favorites regaled us for a wonderful night. I remember the evening to this day. Don McLean was the closing act and he is always worth the effort with songs that go well beyond “American Pie.” Yet, just as entertaining, was a tiny Jewish girl who came on stage by herself and mesmerized us – Janis Ian.

Many women (and men) within ten years of my age will know her immediately for her huge hit which told the unvarnished truth she learned “At Seventeen.” This song spoke to so many as most of us are not blessed with model like looks and effervescent charm. And, when you are not, you face a different set of challenges. Yet, the other part of this “truth” is even when you are born with looks and charm, you need to be able to find and be yourself, because looks don’t last forever, even with Botox. Here are a few lyrics, which ironically were penned by two men, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone

Who called to say, “Come dance with me”
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen

…To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

Yet, if you download her body of work or purchase a greatest hits CD, you will find a number of enchanting songs. Once you do, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine, light a few candles or stoke the fire and listen. Here is an excerpt from “Between the Lines” written by Janis which speaks to how people do not know what to say to each other after the games and banter end.

There’s never much to say between the moments of
Our games and repartee
There’s never much to read between the lines of
What we need and what we’ll take

There’s never much to talk about or say aloud
But say it anyway
Of holidays and yesterdays, and broken dreams
That somehow slipped away

In books and magazines of how to be and what to see
While you are being
Before and after photographs teach how to pass
From reaching to believing

Another one of her classics, is called “Jesse” by Columbier and Michel Jean Pierre, about her loneliness over her lover Jesse’s departure. The pacing of this song is emblematic of her style. She is never in a hurry and she has a voice that soothes, as well as portrays her pain. So, you can find the words amid the tune.

Jesse, the floors and the boards
Recalling your step
And I remember, too
All the pictures are fading
And shaded in grey

But I still set a place
On the table at noon
And I’m leaving a light on the stairs
No I’m not scared – I wait for you

Hey Jesse, I’m lonely, come home

Many people likely do not know Janis Ian. My older brother was the first person who turned me onto her music. She followed in the tradition of similar singers like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell and a contemporary Phoebe Snow. If I had to find a more current performer, I would liken her to Traci Chapman. But, I think her words and music resonate with people as she would never be considered a glamorous person. In fact, when she walked on stage with her guitar, she came in from one side and walked all the way to the other side and exited the stage. This shyness was characteristic of her and her music. But, as McLean said later about Ian when he came on stage, ‘that little lady can sing her hind end off.”

So, if you do not know her music, you are in for a treat. Every 17 year old girl (and boy for that matter) should listen to “At Seventeen.” If you know her, please use the opportunity to revisit her songs. And, remember the glass of wine and the candles.

Keith Wilson, Charlotte
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7 comments on “Janis Ian – a truth teller with her songs – Keith reblog

  • At first, I thought … how odd that two of my blogging buddies had posted about Janis Ian within a week, but then I realized you were re-blogging Keith’s post. As I told him, I hadn’t heard any of her music before, but upon listening, I love it! Thumbs up!

    Like

  • Please share your own experiences here...

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Yolanda - "Det här är mitt privata krig"

    Kreativ text, annorlundaskap, dikter, bipolaritet, Aspergers syndrom, samhällsdebatt

    Candidly Speaking

    News and Commentary

    earthweal

    Poetry of a changing Earth. The grief is real--so is the hope.

    BosssyBabe

    Spouse trainer, motherhood survivalist, bread enthusiast... overall great person.

    World.V.You

    Take a few minutes to slow down and think about what's going on in your world...

    Roadtirement

    "Traveling and Retired"

    About the Jez of It

    Poetry, stories and strange odds and ends from the desk of a writer

    Athens Writers Association

    Bringing passionate genius to the foreground in Athens, GA -- 2013-2019

    annieasksyou...

    Seeking Dialogue to Inform, Enlighten, and/or Amuse You and Me

    TheFeatheredSleep

    Tigers not daughters

    Nature Is My Therapy

    Building healthier and more meaningful connections to nature

    By Hook Or By Book

    Book Reviews, News, and Other Stuff

    fgsjr2015

    My writings of fiction, essay, poetry, observation & commentary

    Intellectual Shaman

    Poetry for Finding Meaning in the Madness

    madnessatthegates

    Culture and Politics from a Mythological Perspective -- Big ideas in plain English

    %d bloggers like this: