As Janis Ian launches her final solo album, The Light At The End Of The Line on January 21, 2022, it seems a good time to post the interview we did. It originally aired on November 30, 1996 on The Linda Belans Show on WUNC-FM.*
Imagine writing your first song at age 14, one that you can’t get produced because it’s about an interracial romance. Then, Leonard Bernstein invites you to perform Society's Child on his TV show, “Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution,” and, alongside your career suddenly taking off, you're subjected to violence and hatred. That’s what happened to Janis Ian. It was 1965, one year after the Civil Rights Act passed the Senate with a 73-27 vote (27 Republicans).
Ian, a writer first, came into her own three years later with At Seventeen, a song she performed with her eyes closed because she thought the audience would laugh at "ugly duckling girls like me". At Seventeen became a teenage anthem. Better Times Will Come, written for her new album after John Prine's recent passing, might just be the anthem for the time we're living through. .
With The Light At The End Of the Line, which includes Nina, a piece about her friend the late Nina Simone, Janis Ian says I'm Still Standing.
*We recorded the unedited interview on reel-to-reel tape in the dusty old Swain Hall studios in Chapel Hill, NC.