At the recent Grammy Awards ceremony, Janis Ian stood backstage fairly certain she wasn’t going to hear her name called as the winner of the Best Spoken Word Album. After all, Ian had some tough competition, including former President Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama.
“I was clutching the arm of a virtual stranger. I thought, ‘I’ve lost six before. I know how to lose,” said Ian, whose recording of Society’s Child: My Autobiography did win the award, the third Grammy of her five-decade career.
Ian, whose musical career began in her teens, Ian will perform at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 30, at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center. She scored her first hit in 1965 with Society’s Child, about interracial relationships. The song created controversy. It was banned by radio stations and spawned hate mail and death threats. By the age of 17, she was already considered a has-been and a one-hit wonder by many.
Society’s Child, which also became the title of her autobiography, has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Ian’s signature song, At Seventeen, was nominated for five Grammy Awards and won Best Pop Female Performance and Best Engineered Recording in 1976.
Over the years, Ian has written songs for artists such as Cher, John Mellencamp, Celine Dion, Hugh Masakela, Nana Mouskouri, Charlie Daniels and Roberta Flack. She won a Dove Award in 2008 for Best Bluegrass Recorded Song for co-writing Love Will Be Enough. She was honored in the New York State Senate for her civil rights work in 2007.
She’s written several books including a children’s book, The Tiny Mouse, based on one of her songs, which is scheduled for release later this year. And Ian continues to maintain a busy performing schedule.
“I like audiences. I like performing,” she said. “Writing is a solitary process, and the flip side of writing is performing.”
Ian doesn’t have a prescribed song list for Tuesday’s concert. Because she’s never performed in the area, Ian doesn’t know exactly what to expect from her audience.
“In New York City and Los Angeles, I know my audiences,” she said. “When I go on stage, I’ll at least do Society’s Child and At Seventeen.”
Beyond that, what she performs will depend on what she’s sensing the audience wants. Also, Ian said she plans to stay after the concert and meet with those who’ve attended.
Tickets cost $30 and $35 and are available at www.augustaamusements.com. or by calling (706) 726-0366.