Bethlehem Press

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Janis Ian, 8 p.m. Oct. 25, Sellersville Theatre, Sellersville. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Janis Ian, 8 p.m. Oct. 25, Sellersville Theatre, Sellersville.

Janis Ian savors songs legacy

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 by EMILY THIEL Special to The Press in Focus

Janis Ian is no stranger to the Lehigh Valley area, as she has made frequent tour stops, including Bethlehem's Musikfest. Janis Ian is back, 8 p.m. Oct. 25, Sellersville Theatre, 24 W. Temple Avenue, Sellersville.

"It's a great theater," says Ian about Sellersville, where she's also previously performed. "There's always a good audience, fantastic stage, great sound and mikes [microphones]."

Seeing success from songs such as "Society's Child," "At Seventeen" and "Jesse," Ian continues to appreciate the songs that have made her well-known. However, she's not had an easy path to fame.

"Society's Child," a song written in 1965 about an interracial relationship, brought backlash to the then 15-year old songwriter. "I stopped for four or five years. I didn't put a foot on the stage [after] 'Society's Child.'"

Her passion and music talent couldn't keep Ian away for long. She reflects that much has changed in the almost half-century since "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)" became a hit in 1967.

"I don't know that [the] song could have that kind of impact now. It's such a bigger world and much more tolerant. You would be hard-pressed to find something that would make westerners as crazy."

The song, "Society's Child," was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001 and became the title of her 2008 autobiography.

In her 40 years in the music business, Ian has seen many changes and learned a lot. "The plus is that you know what you're doing. The minus is that you're older."

Even with the advancement of technology and the devolution of the traditional music business, Ian says, "It's a rough business. It's always been a rough business. I don't think it's any harder or easier than it used to be.

"I don't even know if there is a mainstream anymore. It's all genre and niche marketing. There are more outlets."

Ian writes or co-writes all of her songs, describing her music as "thoughtful," but hesitates to cite her greatest inspiration. She thinks her ability to endure is her greatest accomplishment. Her process to write a song could start with anything from an idea, a title or melody.

Ian continues to sing her hits and doesn't tire of the fans' old favorites.

The iconic lyrics of "At Seventeen," her Grammy-winning 1975 hit, have a lasting connection with listeners of any age: "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."

"Everything I've had that has been a hit is something I really like," says Ian, adding, "'At Seventeen' is a wonderful song and it's done great things for people."

Ian is thankful for her fans and her music career. "I think just being able to still earn a living doing something I love doing -- that's pretty amazing."