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Society's Child: My Autobiography
     

Society's Child: My Autobiography

4.5 8
by Janis Ian
 

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Janis Ian was catapulted into the spotlight in 1966 at the age of fifteen, when her soul-wrenching song ?Society's Child? became a hit. An intimate portrait of an interracial relationship, ?Society's Child? climbed the charts despite the fact that many radio stations across the country refused to play it because of its controversial subject matter. But this was only

Overview

Janis Ian was catapulted into the spotlight in 1966 at the age of fifteen, when her soul-wrenching song ?Society's Child? became a hit. An intimate portrait of an interracial relationship, ?Society's Child? climbed the charts despite the fact that many radio stations across the country refused to play it because of its controversial subject matter. But this was only the beginning of a long and illustrious career. In this fascinating memoir of her more than forty years in the music business, Ian chronicles how she did drugs with Jimi Hendrix, went shopping for Grammy clothes with Janis Joplin, and sang with Mel Tormé?all the while never ceasing to create unforgettable music.

In 1975, Ian's legendary ?At Seventeen? earned two Grammy awards and five nominations. Her next two albums brought her worldwide platinum hits. But after seven albums in as many years, she made a conscious decision to walk away from the often grueling music business. During this period, she struggled through a difficult marriage that ended with her then husband's attempt to destroy her, and a sudden illness that very nearly cost her her life. The hiatus from music lasted for close to a decade until, in 1993, Ian returned with the release of the Grammy-nominated Breaking Silence. Now, as she moves gracefully into her fifth decade as a recording artist and writer, Ian continues to draw large audiences around the globe.

In Society's Child, Janis Ian provides a relentlessly honest account of the successes and failures, and the hopes and dreams?of an extraordinary life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

"I was born into the crack that split America," Ian writes, and her early immersion in the folk music scene of the 1960s helped shape her prodigious songwriting talents while she was still in her teens. The autobiography shares a title with her first hit, a song about a doomed interracial romance that was considered too controversial for many record labels and radio stations. The pressures of the music industry and her troubled family life drove Ian to a nervous breakdown at the age of 19. It was in the following long period of recovery that she wrote her most famous song, "At Seventeen." ("I'd never sing it in public," she says of her initial feelings about the song. "It was just too humiliating.") Soon after reaching that recording peak, her life was derailed by a series of troubles ranging from an abusive marriage (to a man she first met because she was in love with his girlfriend) to massive tax liabilities to bouts with septicemia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The roller-coaster ride may be typical stuff for celebrity autobiography, but fans will appreciate the candor with which Ian discusses these hardships and her gradual path to happiness as an independent singer-songwriter in Nashville. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The sad life and hard times of the queen of mopey folk. Fifteen-year-old Ian became a cause celebre in the 1960s as the composer and performer of "Society's Child," a folk-pop song that daringly addressed an interracial romance between teenagers. In calm, lucid prose, she charts the bumpy path of her life and career since then as an embattled lesbian singer-songwriter with, apparently, worse luck than the Chicago Cubs. Precociously intelligent, Ian felt alienated from her peers, and this early unhappiness seems to have colored many of her subsequent experiences. As she struggled to advance her career in an often cruel and superficial industry, she was repeatedly cheated and mismanaged, never quite breaking through to superstardom despite such hits as the 1975 wallflower anthem "At Seventeen." In her account, the author sees herself as a perpetual victim: molested by the family dentist as a child, drugged by a stranger on the streets of New York, sexually manipulated by her therapist and various girlfriends, cheated by business managers, persecuted by the IRS, beaten and threatened with death by a psychotic husband. Serious health problems also repeatedly sidelined Ian, including an incapacitating bout of chronic fatigue syndrome. All of which would suggest she is an epic downer to hang out with. As a narrator, though, she proves excellent company, providing fascinating insights into the craft of songwriting and amusing anecdotes about carousing with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. The personal material is equally gripping, in a soap-operatic way, rife with betrayals, sexual intrigue, danger and madness. As evidenced by many of her lyrics (and second career writingscience-fiction stories), Ian is a natural prose stylist with a real knack for pacing and the telling detail. What might have been a dreary catalog of woe is instead a juicily entertaining look at an unusual life in show business. Downbeat yet oddly rollicking and compulsively readable.
From the Publisher
“Society’s Child is the hugely readable autobiography of an artist who has lived through success and crushing hardship but knows that ‘you can’t sing and cry at the same time.’ Sing on!”
—O, The Oprah Magazine

“Painfully candid . . . hard to put down.”
—Booklist (starred review)

“A juicily entertaining look at an unusual life in show business."Downbeat yet oddly rollicking and compulsively readable.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"Deftly written, the life experiences described by Janis Ian in this engaging memoir gives us a peek into the anatomy of a brilliant songwriter'
—Joan Baez

"One of life's greatest pleasures is a book that you simply can't put down—one that transports you from start to finish as it elevates, enlightens, engages and entertains. Janis Ian gives you all this in Society's Child."
—Kitty Kelley

"A splendid retelling of a major life! Janis Ian is a survivor, and her book is an illuminating and inspiring read."
—Anne McCaffrey

"Janis Ian is at once larger-than-life and excruciatingly human. In Society's Child she describes great triumphs, devastating betrayals of every kind, and her extraordinary strength of spirit shines through every page."
—Kathy Mattea

"A book of surpassing clarity and truth."
—Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game

"I laughed, I ached, I wept, I cheered...and ultimately was totally taken by Janis Ian's honest and deeply moving autobiography: an insightful and courageous personal account of her musical, spiritual and emotional journey."
—Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul & Mary

 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440635168
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/24/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
645,730
File size:
769 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Society’s Child is the hugely readable autobiography of an artist who has lived through success and crushing hardship but knows that ‘you can’t sing and cry at the same time.’ Sing on!”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Painfully candid . . . hard to put down.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A juicily entertaining look at an unusual life in show business."Downbeat yet oddly rollicking and compulsively readable.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Deftly written, the life experiences described by Janis Ian in this engaging memoir gives us a peek into the anatomy of a brilliant songwriter'
—Joan Baez

"One of life's greatest pleasures is a book that you simply can't put down—one that transports you from start to finish as it elevates, enlightens, engages and entertains. Janis Ian gives you all this in Society's Child."
—Kitty Kelley

"A splendid retelling of a major life! Janis Ian is a survivor, and her book is an illuminating and inspiring read."
—Anne McCaffrey

"Janis Ian is at once larger-than-life and excruciatingly human. In Society's Child she describes great triumphs, devastating betrayals of every kind, and her extraordinary strength of spirit shines through every page."
—Kathy Mattea

"A book of surpassing clarity and truth."
—Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game

"I laughed, I ached, I wept, I cheered...and ultimately was totally taken by Janis Ian's honest and deeply moving autobiography: an insightful and courageous personal account of her musical, spiritual and emotional journey."
—Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul & Mary

 

Meet the Author

Janis Ian was born April 7, 1951. Ian started playing the piano at age two, but was far from being a child prodigy on that instrument, as she hated scales and studying. She switched to guitar at age ten and wrote her first song, Hair of Spun Gold, at the age of twelve. Her first album, featuring her breakout hit Society’s Child, was recorded for Verve-Folkways in 1965. A haunting melody about a forbidden interracial relationship, Society’s Child ignited controversy from coast to coast, resulting in the burning of a radio station, the firing of disc jockeys who played it, and a generation of searchers finally having a female songwriter to stand beside Bob Dylan.



Ian took a break from music at the age of eighteen, retiring to Philadelphia for three years “to find out if I had it in me to be a good songwriter, or if I should just go to school and become a veterinarian.” She returned with the stunning “Stars” album in 1973, and went on to cover the decade with number one records worldwide. The seminal At Seventeen brought her five Grammy nominations (the most any solo female artist had ever garnered) in 1975, and she was asked to perform the song on the first-ever episode of Saturday Night Live in the fall of that year. Her follow-up to “Between the Lines”, titled “Aftertones”, was #1 in Japan for an astonishing six months, a record still unbroken by a female artist. “Night Rains”, featuring the Giorgio Moroder collaboration “Fly Too High”, went platinum throughout Europe, Africa, and Australia.



In 1983, after ten unbroken years of making records and touring, Ian took an unprecedented nine year hiatus from the music world, studying acting with the legendary Stella Adler and “in general, learning how to be a person”. During that period, she married and divorced, suffered two emergency surgeries, lost all her savings and home to an unscrupulous business manager, and moved to Nashville, TN in 1988 “penniless, in debt, and hungry to write”. She returned to the music business with 1992’s “Breaking Silence”, which immediately garnered her ninth Grammy nomination.



In 2002, Society’s Child was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2008, they inducted At Seventeen. Ian continues to tour worldwide and to record for her own label, Rude Girl Records. She lives in Tennessee with her partner Pat Snyder.



“It was good to start young,” says Ian. “It was good to learn, early on, that what matters is the music. I got most of my big mistakes over with before I was twenty-one. When people say ‘Didn’t you miss having a teenage life?’ I just say ‘I only know the life I lived. I was a teenager, working. A hundred years ago, no one would have thought anything of it. At least I got to do something I loved! I could have been working in a factory, or a day job where every day is the same thing, day in and day out. Instead, I got to deal with everything from doing coke with Jimi Hendrix to death threats. I lived an entire life in my teen years, and I don’t regret a second of it.”


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Society's Child: My Autobiography 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
MountainGirls More than 1 year ago
Thank you Janis Ian for a great autobiography and great music.  You have the gift to transport your readers and listeners to many places of the heart and soul.  You are at the top of my favorite list.  Bravo!
CYinVT More than 1 year ago
...you must read Janis Ian's autobiography. Having been a fan for decades now, I had the opportunity to see Janis again recently when she visited Vermont with Tom Paxton. Her songs and stories are timeless treasures. Her biography is honest and heart-wrenching, and like listening to her songs, I just could not stop. A true artist... in so many senses of the word.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a Janis Ian fan and follower since Society's Child first hit the airwaves. Being a couple of years her junior she was mentor, friend, philosopher, artist and the person who first opened my ears to hear and my eyes to see. This book brings it all back again. The insights and the additional stories that fill in some of the blanks of my knowledge about her are great. I felt as though a long lost friend came by to visit and talk about all the old times and what they were doing now. Thank you for the music and thank you for revealing your soul.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We knew she could write beautiful songs that touch our hearts, but when she makes us privy to her life story, the stories behind those songs make them all the more compelling. A book I thought I'd enjoy at a leisurely pace was immediately one I could not put down. I recommend this book to anyone who believes in the American Dream and enjoys reading about it coming true. Adversity, survival, madness, laughter and above all love.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought by reading the sample I could get a feel for the book, but after credits etc., there was only one small page of the actual book. Hardly enough to be called a sample. Dissapointed enough to not buy the book on principal.