Janis Ian Society’s Child

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Janis Ian Society’s Child

Janis Ian Society's Child

Pop Music

The music of the 1960s includes social movements songs. Janis Ian was only 14 years old when she finished writing “Society’s Child (Baby, I’ve Been Thinking)” in 1965. It covered controversial material, which was an interracial romance. The singer of the song is white and has an African-American boyfriend. The girl’s mother, friends, and teachers disapprove of the relationship. In the end, the girl feels that she cannot fight society’s rules and breaks off with her boyfriend. The Civil Rights movement, of course, was very prominent at the time. Also, Ian lived in East Orange, New Jersey, and went to school mostly with African-Americans. Record producer and songwriter Shadow Morton (“Leader of the Pack, “(Remember) Walking in the Sand”) signed her to a contract with Verve Records and released the song. Leonard Bernstein had Ian perform the song on a TV special about new pop music, which helped to promote her and the record.

In 1967, CBS aired a one-hour special “Inside Pop — The Rock Revolution” hosted by Leonard Bernstein. Hosting hip young musicians, Bernstein shared cigarettes with them while apologizing for being “the establishment.” The show highlighted “Society’s Child” for which Bernstein had high praise. Bernstein correctly pointed out that the song has an absolutely brilliant modulation in the final chorus. The song is in C-minor and the chorus (“I can’t see you anymore”) is in a jarring parallel A-minor. At the end of the song, the sentiment changes from “I can’t see you anymore” to “I don’t want to see you anymore.” That change is accentuated by a modulation from A-minor to G-minor, which perfectly communicates a feeling of despair and resignation.

The record, which had been banned on major radio stations, began playing across the country almost immediately following the broadcast. In 1967 “Society’s Child” went to #13 on the U.S. Cash Box Pop Singles Chart and #14 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Janis Ian was born Janis Eddy Fink in New York City. She also had success with the song “At Seventeen.” She continues to write, record, tour, and perform.

Here are the lyrics to “Society’s Child” by Janis Ian:

Come to my door, baby
Face is clean and shining black as night
My mother went to answer
You know that you looked so fine

Now, I could understand your tears and your shame
She called you ‘Boy’ instead of your name
When she wouldn’t let you inside
When she turned and said, “But honey, he’s not our kind”

She says I can’t see you any more, baby
Can’t see you anymore

Walk me down to school, baby
Everybody’s acting deaf and blind
Until they turn and say
Why don’t you stick to your own kind

My teachers all laugh, they smirk and stare
Cuttin’ deep down in our affair
Preachers of equality, think they believe it
Then why won’t they just let us be?

They say I can’t see you anymore, baby
Can’t see you anymore

One of these days I’m gonna stop my listenin’
Gonna raise my head up high
One of these days I’m gonna raise my glistenin’
Wings and fly

But that day will have to wait for awhile
Baby, I’m only society’s child
When we’re older things may change
But for now this is the way they must remain

I say, I can’t see you any more, baby
Can’t see you anymore
No, I don’t wanna see you any more, baby

Check Out The Groove Pad for More 1960s Music

The Pass the Paisley Groove Pad is a resting stop, a place to chill out and listen to the featured song on the stereo. If the mood strikes you, click on the juke box to access and listen to the 50+ free online songs there. The TV has several channels, with selections updated twice a week. Every now and then, Pass the Paisley hosts an all-request of 1960s and 1970s songs for a Be-In at the juke box in the Groove Pad. Keep on truckin’. Hope you enjoyed “Society’s Child” by Janis Ian.

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Jane Minogue

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