Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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IAN, Janis

(b Janis Eddy Fink, 7 April '51, NYC) Singer, songwriter. Father was a music teacher; she studied piano at three, guitar at eleven, began writing and performing at twelve. Made 'Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)', about an interracial love affair; at first no one would play it, but then she was featured on a Leonard Bernstein TV special and it was a no. 14 hit '67. Eponymous debut LP followed by For All The Seasons Of Your Mind and The Secret Life Of J. Eddy Fink '68, one more on Verve and an LP on Capitol, then quit at 19. But she could not stop writing: comeback Stars '74 on Columbia saw her in LP chart again, but Between The Lines '75 was no. 1 LP in USA, helped by Grammy-winning no. 3 single 'At Seventeen', anthem of teenage angst by the now mature 24-year- old. Aftertones '76, Miracle Row '77, Janis Ian '78 all charted; Night Rain '79, an experiment with disco producer Giorgio Moroder, did not; Restless Eyes '81 again reached top 200 LPs. Best-of on CBS/UK. In the '80s she was married to a Portuguese-born film-maker who left her with a black eye, and the authorities bankrupted her because her manager had not been paying her taxes; her mother came down with MS and she herself nearly died from a ruptured intestine. She collaborated with Nashville writer Rhonda Kye Fleming '86; she had been 'outed' as a lesbian (and disapproves of 'outing': 'I think it sucks'), and moved to Nashville '88 for the company of songwriters, returning to the studio with Breaking Silence '93 on Morgan Creek (controversial as ever, with songs about incest), Present Company '94 on One Way, Revenge '95 and Hunger '97 on Grapevine.