HOLMES BEACH – Grammy Award-winning singer, composer and author Janis Ian shared her wit and musical talent with three groups of listeners estimated to number more than 200. It was the most-watched appearance in the history of the Friends of the Island Branch Library’s Travel and Lecture Series.
Ian’s two top-40 songs, “At Seventeen” and “Society’s Child,” were part of the fabric of the politically-conscious side of the folk-rock music scene. She was right at home sitting in front of the audience at Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club’s banquet room. When they sensed a large crowd would want to see her free appearance, the Friends of the Island Library got help from the nearby resort. Ian appeared live in the banquet room and her performance was streamed to large-screen televisions at Cobb’s Corner, a covered structure by the resort’s pool, and back to the Walker-Swift meeting room at the library.
To get in, people had to come to Waterline earlier in the day to get tickets and the long line was reminiscent of the rock and roll concerts of earlier years. In fact, Terry Krafchik got there at 8 a.m., three and a half hours before the tickets were handed out.
“I remember doing this for a Bruce Springsteen concert,” she said.
Ian broke into the popular music scene at the age of 16 with the ballad “Society’s Child,” a song about interracial dating. She followed up in the 1970s with “At Seventeen,” a Grammy Award-winning song about how young girls were made to think their looks were their most important virtue.
She started the concert with “Society’s Child” and later said that while singing on stage in the south, members of the audience started chanting “N… lover” to the point where she left the stage, crying.
“My manager came up to me asked me what I was doing,” she said.
Her manager convinced her if she didn’t return to the stage, the racist hecklers would have won.
“I returned and started singing again and when they started heckling me, my manager had them kicked out,” she said.
She shared a funny song she wrote after somebody told her she should write an autobiography when she was 16. She also told the crowd she dropped out of school at 16 because she was already making a living and she got her GED later to please her mother.
Ian spoke about The Pearl Foundation, an organization that helps women turn their lives around through education. It’s one of her favorites. She sold merchandise after the lecture and donated proceeds to the Pearl Foundation and the Friends, who raised approximately $1,100 according to the library. After her lecture, she spent time signing merchandise and posing for photos and selfies.
During her talk she said she loves libraries and her appearance Thursday spread a lot of love to the Island Branch Library, and the Island.