Vol II, Issue 20 – At seventeen (15 Nov 2017)

For the love of rock

Vol II, Issue 20 – At seventeen (15 Nov 2017)


 Name of song– At seventeen

Singer- Janis Ian

Album- Between the lines

Writer– Janis Ian

Release year– 1975

Peak chart positions-

          # 1 – Canada RPM adult contemporary

# 1 – US Billboard adult contemporary

# 1 – US Cash Box Top 100

# 3 – US Billboard Hot 100

# 6 – Canada RPM Top Singles

# 18 – Australia Kent Music Report


Special mentions

Grammy Awards – Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (1976)

Grammy Awards Nominations – Record of the year (1976)

Grammy Awards Nominations – Song of the year (1976)


Similar artists– Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro


At seventeen


Reviewers- Bikash Shrestha/Nirab Kayastha

Although Janis Ian may be an unfamiliar name for the rock fans, her contribution to rock music is definitely worth mentioning. Janis Ian broke into American folk music scene during mid-sixties as a teenager. Most remarkably known as a Grammy Award winner for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1976, she has left an amazing legacy in the musical field. She is a multi talented artist- besides being a poet, a singer as well as a musician; she is also famous as science fiction writer! Her autobiography, “Society’s child” is also equally successful. Although Ian has a low profile life, her contribution to the music world just cannot be ignored.

Her first hit single “Society’s child” was written at the age of 14 and became famous for its bold topic of inter-racial relationship. Later, in 1976, she soared to stardom with “At seventeen”, her most successful single. “At seventeen” was her single from seventh studio album “Between the lines” released in 1975. It gave her Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1976 and was also nominated for song and record of the year. The single became so successful that it propelled the album to the top and hit platinum sales with more than a million copies sold.

The song picks up smoothly with a lovely guitar pick and magical voice of Janis comes along. Her voice penetrates straight into our hearts with her poignant mood and exquisite feelings. Slowly, the haunting bass comes into play and creates majestic aura into the song. The agony of a teenager who is physically not attractive is well portrayed in this honest, sad song. The powerful melody, intricate arrangement and subtle lyrics so easily play with our heart-strings. The song is musically very rich, with good combination of percussion, soft drums, guitar, bass and wonderful trumpets and horn. The middle portion of melodious trumpet is equally captivating. The fading part of the song with slow trumpet, guitar and drums also mesmerizes the listener each time she/he listens to it.

Yes, Janis Ian did introduce herself into music scene with “Society’s child”, but it was “At seventeen” which consolidated her success as a musical star. Overall a delicate song of intricate feelings, “At seventeen” drives each of the rock fans back into their teenage days of seventeen!

Happy listening!!


Resources– Wikipedia.org, Allmusic.com

At seventeen

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

Lyrics link-http://www.lyricsfreak.com/j/janis+ian/at+seventeen_20330361.html

Youtube video link-https://youtu.be/pu7RyDVx51I

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