Janis Ian began writing songs at twelve, and performed onstage at New York’s Village Gate just one year later. Her first record, Society’s Child, was released two years after that; her first album, Janis Ian, was nominated for a Grammy when she was fifteen years old. In 1976, the seminal At Seventeen brought her five Grammy nominations, and songs like “Jesse” and “Stars” have been recorded by artists as diverse as Celine Dion, John Mellencamp, Mel Torme, Nina Simone, and Bette Midler.
Janis’s energy does not stop at performing. Her autobiography Society’s Child, a starred Booklist review and Publisher’s Weekly pick, details her life and career. The self-penned bio garnered her the first of four Audie Award nominations for narration; she won both an Audie and a Grammy for the audio book. Her last audiobook project, Patience & Sarah (co-narrated by actress Jean Smart), brought her tenth Grammy nomination in eight different categories.
Her prose piece “The Internet Debacle,” written in 2002, and the follow up, “Fall-out,” have been reprinted on over 5,000 websites, and are used in textbooks all over the world to illustrate what one artist’s voice did for the future of digital technology. The prescient articles accurately forecast the creation of iTunes, as well as asserting (correctly) that the music industry would be saved by downloading, rather than destroyed by it.
Her song “Stars” is also the title of an anthology featuring twenty-four major science fiction writers, all of them “tipping the hat” by writing original stories based on songs Janis wrote that affected their own lives. The same song was the finale in Liz Garbus’s documentary Whatever Happened, Miss Simone? which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016.
By choice, Ian has no booking agent or manager. A touring artist most of her life, she’s now determined to concentrate on other aspects of her talent. She’s currently working on several book and recording projects, as well as regularly giving her Master Class in Artistry at festivals and educational institutions world-wide, and a yearly commitment as visiting professor at the Stella Adler School and their New York University adjunct.
Janis and her wife also run The Pearl Foundation, named for her mother, which has donated over $900,000 in scholarship funds for returning students at five different universities and colleges.