A Blog PS/News from another Old Friend

During the toughest years of my life, music sustained me as I drove home from insurance sale appointments listening to music on my eight-track player. (Anybody remember those?). And one of the artists who was incredibly important to me at the time was Janis Ian. Her often heart-breaking lyrics touched my very soul.

As a seventh-grade girl in Bisbee’s Greenway School, I was already six feet tall. I was smart and wore thick glasses which made me pretty much a social outcast in junior high and high school. So when I heard Janis Ian’s song At Seventeen it really spoke to me. In case you don’t remember the lyrics, I’m posting them here:

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
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say – come dance with me
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said – pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game, and when we dare
We cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say – come on, dance with me
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen.

When I heard those words for the first time, I thought, “She and I must have walked in the same moccasins.” Later, when I learned she’s only four-ten, I realized the moccasin thing was dead wrong, but who cares?

When I began doing public appearances, I often closed events by singing At Seventeen. But then a strange thing happened. Over a decade ago, Janis and I met and became friends. When we appeared together in Tucson a few years ago, we billed ourselves as The Long and the Short of It. We’re both women of a certain age—artists with one foot in the world of art and the other in the world of business. Right now, as I’m about to launch off on a tour, so is Janis—she’s on tour, and no, our paths aren’t going to cross until later this fall.

Her new album, I’m Still Standing just came out, and it speaks to me now just as At Seventeen once did and still does.

She’s out on the road. Some of her performances are sold out, but not all of them. I’m posting her schedule below and hoping that some of you will grab a carload of your vaccinated and boosted pals and go see her, because not only is she still standing, so are we!

As for the last two lines of the song—the ones that say:

And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me.

That may have been true for both of us back then, but it’s equally true for both of us that our fans are what have made all our dreams come true.

Thur 24 Jean Cocteau Theatre, Santa Fe NM
Fri 25 Jean Cocteau Theatre, Santa Fe NM
Sat 26 Jean Cocteau Theatre, Santa Fe NM Sold out
Sun 27 Jean Cocteau Theatre, Santa Fe NM* 1pm master class with performances

Thur March 03 The Rialto, Tucson AZ
Fri March 04 MIM, Phoenix AZ Sold out
Sun March 06 Magnolia Theater, El Cajon CA
Fri March 11 McCabe’s, Los Angeles Sold out
Sat March 12 McCabe’s, Los Angeles Sold out
Sun March 13 McCabe’s, Los Angeles * Master class noon Sold out
Wed March 16 Painted Table, Fresno CA
Fri March 18 Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga CA
Sun March 20 Freight & Salvage, Berkeley CA sold out
Sun March 27 Mountain Stage, Morgantown, WV
Thur March 31 Capitol Theater, Clearwater FL

Sat April 02 Parker Theater, Ft. Lauderdale with Livingston Taylor/ Tom Chapin
Sun April 03 Lyric Theater, Stuart FL
Thur April 14 Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs NY
Fri April 15 Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs NY
Sat April 16 Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs NY
Mon April 18 Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs NY * master class with performances
Thur April 21 Katherine Hepburn Theater, Old Saybrook CT
Sat April 23 Lynn Auditorium, Lynn MA with Livingston Taylor & Tom Chapin
Sun April 24 Shea Theater, Turner Falls MA
Wed April 27 Whitaker Center, Harrisburg PA with Livingston Taylor & Tom Chapin
Fri April 29 Tin Pan, Richmond VA sold out
Sat April 30 The Birchmere, Alexandria VA

Sun May 01 Newton Theater, Newton NJ
Tues May 03 Private radio station event
Thur May 05 Scottish Rite Aud., Collingswood NJ with Livingston Taylor & Tom Chapin
Fri May 06 Ocean City Music Pier, Ocean City NJ w/ Livingston Taylor & Tom Chapin
Sat May 07 Society for Ethical Culture, New York with Livingston Taylor & Tom Chapin
Sun May 08 Suffolk Theater, Riverhead NY
Wed May 11 Goodyear, Akron OH w/ Tom Rush
Fri May 13 Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton WI
Sat May 14 Old Town School, Chicago IL sold out
Sun May 15 Old Town School, Chicago IL * master class 1pm with performances
Wed May 18 The Southern, Columbus OH w/ Tom Rush
Thur May 19 Memorial Hall, Cincinnati OH w/ Tom Rush
Sun May 22 Englert Civic Theater, Iowa City IO
Wed May 25 Sheldon Theater, St. Louis MO with Livingston Taylor
Fri May 27 CMA Theater, Nashville, TN with Livingston Taylor



26 thoughts on “A Blog PS/News from another Old Friend

  1. Yes, I remember Janis Ian, and I remember relating to that song, which was on the radio many times in those days. We moved often while I was growing up, and therefore not knowing the local sports and being smart, with glasses, and what my mother termed “painfully shy,” I was always on the outside looking in, and picked last for the softball teams, etc. Yes, I well remember that song. But how lovely that you now know the singer, and have included her tour dates. What a busy woman she’s going to be this year! Unfortunately, the locations are way too far for me to take in!

    • Faith, your description of yourself in HS totally resonates with me — moved about, nearsighted and hopeless at ball sports, shy with my peers and a bit too eager for attention from the teachers. We think at that age that we are the only ones, and then we find each other and can blossom.

      I have several of Janis Ian’s CDs — fell in love with her music even before “At Seventeen”, still remember memorizing “Society’s Child” — but have never seen her in concert. And this time she’s touring with Livingston Taylor! When I lived in MA I used to attend his performances at the Concord Inn. I really wish they were doing the Pacific Northwest! It’s really hard to justify flying somewhere just for a concert; the only ones that I could combine with other activities (visits to friends and family) are smack on top of a concert that I have committed to singing in myself. Judy, could you find a way to lure her to Seattle or Portland?

        • Thanks! I was only looking at the listings in the blog. No Liv on those dates, but I think, after the sudden death of a cousin, I will not put off till tomorrow what I can grab hold of today…. or in Sept!

  2. I was that girl at 17 also. Never asked to the dances by any boys in our high school, was tall & skinny & felt inferior to other girls who had nice clothes & dates. Married the first guy that asked me & of course, ended in divorce.
    Never went to any class reunions but finally got the courage to go to the 40th. I had matured in the right places & the reaction from the class members was wonderful. Told one of the guys I danced with that “nobody from our high school ever looked at me – let alone asked me out, etc., etc.
    His response was very memorable – He said “it was our loss”.

  3. I loved both blogs from today. I got to see Janis Ian years ago with my sister. She was touring with Judy Collins. My sister and I are both 6’ tall. We were in the mosh pit at the stage. After the concert she signed autographs. We we walked up, she looked at us and said “great, it’s the tall girls”. We all cracked up.
    Got a chance to visit with Ritchie Havens. Holding hands while talking about Jimi Hendrix. One of my best concerts.

  4. Did Janis Ian write that Song? I think I remember hearing It on WLS Chicago (50,000 watts of power covering the mid west with pop music) I think Tom or Harry Chapin re did it later from the male perspective. Thank you for dreging up 1962 memories of mine. Late night young military training at WX school in Chanute AFB Illinois. You a painless dredging up of the archives of my mind in several of your books as well as Your Blog. Thanks again for doing so. Good luck in your Travels and give that Significant other (policically corect) and extra Hug because of this note. Chuck in Tacoma.

  5. I remember that song and I was one of the tall ugly ducklings too. Isn’t it amazing that we ARE still standing, having survived so many things.

  6. I remember the adults who said, “These are the best years of your life-”
    For a lot of us they were the worst- I think I would rather die than be a teenager again- There was the constant fear of not fitting in, of being rejected-
    When I worked in the High Schools as a Mental Health Professional, I told kids
    that it was very hard to be an adolescent- That if they were feeling inferior and undesirable they were by no means alone- That a lot of their peers were struggling as much as they were, despite appearances-
    I loved Janis Ian- I had no idea that she is still making albums and performing-
    I will buy her newest album- She helped many of us survive “The best years of our lives!”

  7. Judy, I still have a great photo of you, Janis Ian, & me at the Festival of Books here in Tucson in 2010. She & you both gave me autographs and one of you wrote a note that said, “Let’s talk about our names”.
    I wish we could all meet again and, for sure, I will plan on seeing her at the Rialto here in Tucson on this March 3rd and you at the Festival of Books this year.

  8. Growing up, I was clumsy and poorly coordinated. I was the one that was always the last picked for games. I couldn’t run fast and I couldn’t catch a ball. Dancing was a lost cause. It was very painful. Of course, I hated PE.
    When I grew up I became an elementary teacher. For PE, I did the team selection. No one in my classes would be suffer the shame of being the last picked.

  9. I was not a social outcast in high school but I also was not part of the “in” crowd. I liked college much more than high school. Years after high school, a guy that was part of that IN crowd looked me up for some reason known only to himself. I went out with him 2 or 3 times. OMG! Was he boring!!!!! ???!!!!! Those who peak in high school are, IMHO, sad. It’s been a long time since high school and I’m not sure if I’ve peaked yet. ?

  10. Janis Ian is one of my favorite musicians. I should not be surprised that your paths would cross and you would form a friendship. I agree about the At Seventeen song, I felt the same way. Her latest, and last album, is wonderful and relevant to the times we have been living in. Thanks for posting her tour dates. I had hoped to make it to either the Portland or Seattle concert but prior obligations will keep me from it. That is very disappointing as this truly is her farewell tour so I won’t have another chance to see her live. I follow her facebook page, she really is an interesting person.

  11. Janis Ian was a little before my time, but I’ve heard this song, and the lyrics resonate with me. I was the smart, nerdy weirdo in middle and high school, and yeah, it was hard. It’s been interesting reconnecting with people on social media and learning that everyone struggled at that age, and (as someone said upthread) some people definitely peaked too soon.

  12. One of my favorite songs! I was the girl with glasses and braces who had no coordination but was a brainiac and bookworm. I made zero effort in school and still posted good grades. Almost 40 years later and it seems all the popular kids from high school are on their second, third, or fourth marriage and unhappy where I am happily married to my first husband for 35 years. This song resonates with me still.

  13. I was an ugly duckling male – rejection isn’t a function of gender. But I got better looking as I got older, and I have no regrets over my awkward beginnings. Robert L. Glass

  14. Why does nobody come to Oklahoma ? We love concerts & book signing. We are a beautiful state. We have lots of country, which we love, broadway shows that we love, & rock that some love, but we need more classical and & Book signings. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

  15. I remember you singing At 17 at one of your book signings at Aunties Bookstore in Spokane. I love her music. She was also on the 1st episode of SNL (it was called Saturday Night back them).

    I probably was the male version of the ugly ducking. I was not popular, never dated in high school. It was after I joined the Air Force I got the confidence to meet some one and eventually marry them. We were together 42 years before she passed away from cancer.

  16. At 13, I was taller than the girls in my class, and most of the boys. I wore glasses, was endowed with a bountiful bosom, and wore size 9 shoes…how I envied those smaller, cuter, petite girls.
    There were a lot of us, Judy, but we survived!

  17. I enjoy your weekly blog congrats to you and I.P on the new book I had it on my calendar to come to your signing tonight but now I am not so sure. Traveling in what is known as 5 o’clock Seattle traffic does not inspire me. I am sad I enjoy your signing gatherings. I find that I have a dozen hard backs that have not been signed maybe I can send a couple at a time directly to you to sign. Have a great day and stay safe.

  18. I don’t recall hearing the song, probably because I had an unrecognized hearing loss already in high school. Add that to other socially unacceptable things like being somewhat smart and awkward, and this pretty much describes me in high school too. J. A., you are a gem! I not only have read almost all of your books (not the new one yet although I just bought it.), but your blog is great! Thank you! You are a true heroine now!

  19. I don’t recall hearing the song, probably because I had an unrecognized hearing loss already in high school. Add that to other socially unacceptable things like being somewhat smart and awkward, and this pretty much describes me in high school too. J. A., you are a gem! I not only have read almost all of your books (not the new one yet although I just bought it.), but your blog is great! Thank you! You are a true heroine now!

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