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Folk singer Janis Ian in concert

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Janis Ian

Janis Ian

Legendary folk singer-songwriter Janis Ian will bring five decades of her music to the Martin Methodist College campus on Tuesday, Oct. 9, when she performs as part of the 2012-13 Della Clayton Lee Cultural Arts Series.

The concert begins at 7 p.m. in Martin Hall Auditorium. Tickets are $7 for festival seating; call 931-363-9882 for reservations. (All students, grade school through college, are admitted free of charge, but seats should still be reserved.)

Janis Ian began her mostly stellar, sometimes stormy, professional life at the ripe old age of 12 when she wrote her first song and was published by Broadside Magazine. That led to her first “real” show, at New York’s venerable Village Gate, where she shared a stage with Tom Paxton, Lou Gossett Jr., Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, and a host of other singer-songwriters.

In 1965, at 14, she wrote “Society’s Child,” a controversial debut single and her first hit, which focused on an interracial couple, and she headlined her first show at Greenwich Village’s Gaslight Café at 15. From the start, her career – and life – was fraught with challenges. The intimidating boos she received onstage from racists shied in comparison to the hate mail and death threats she was subjected to. She has continued to hold her head high despite criticism, family problems, near fatal health issues, failed relationships, including an abusive and broken marriage, and devastating financial crises.

Her roller coaster ride eventually brought her to Nashville, her home for the past quarter-century, where she thrives as one of the true legends of folk-pop music history, continuing to tour, write and record.

Along with “Society’s Child,” her two most celebrated songs were “Jessie,” written in 1971 and recorded by countless artists, most notably Roberta Flack, and “At Seventeen,” the iconic classic that tells the heart-wrenching story of a young girl who “learned the truth at 17 that love was meant for beauty queens /
In high school, girls with clear-skin smiles,
who married young and then retired.” She received five Grammy nominations for “At Seventeen” and the album on which it was recorded, “Between the Lines” – one

of only five solo female artists to receive that many nominations in one year; the others

being Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Olivia Newton-John.

Through her career, Ian has had other significant milestones, including: being the musical performer on the inaugural broadcast of “Saturday Night Live;” topping the charts at #1 in Japan for a full year; having both “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen” inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; having been nominated for awards in multiple musical genres of folk, pop, jazz, and children’s music; singing the very first commercials for Bud Light and McDonald’s Egg McMuffin; garnering the highest rating ever as a guest on Howard Stern’s radio show; and having been one of Chet Atkins’ favorite guitarists.

Her songs have been recorded by singers as diverse as Cher, John Mellencamp, Celine Dion, Hugh Masakela, Nana Mouskouri, Charlie Daniels and Joan Baez.

“This will be one of the truly historic musical evenings in the long history of the Della Clayton Lee series,” said Grant Vosburgh, who serves as coordinator of the cultural arts program at Martin Methodist College. “Just to hear Janis Ian perform ‘At Seventeen’ in person is reason enough for a lot of people to call for reservations. She still has that same clear, pure beautiful voice that makes you lean forward and hang on every word. To hear her perform ‘Jesse’ will bring a hush to the concert hall to the point where you’ll be able to hear a pin drop.”