Mother’s Day – Janis Ian

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Janis Ian - Mother's Day

I have been watching my mother die by inches for so long that sometimes I think the world is comprised of marks on a yardstick.

Here is the mark where she first felt a tingling & numbness. Here is the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis ten years and twenty doctors later.

Here is the mark where she refused to hold her first grandchild lest she drop him. Here is our last piece of sushi together, before the gruel that now makes her gag because the muscles of her throat are deteriorating.

Here is the day she called me to demand $5,000 in small bills “immediately” because the bed was leaking green phosphorescence & had to be replaced.

Here are her last steps.

Here is her final descent into a wheelchair.

And here is the mark where I finally stopped demanding she be herself, and began instead to love the stranger she’d become.

This is my mother, who marched in the streets against Hitler & Viet Nam, and who taught me that for every Fourth of July firework, there is a mushroom cloud called Hiroshima lurking in the background.

Here is the year we didn’t speak, too angry at each other to even attempt détente… and here is where we both decided there was more to us than mismatched opinions.

Here are the things I gave her – backstage late at night in the jazz clubs, funding to go back to school, season tickets for the opera.

And here are my own regrets – why didn’t I take her to Japan, why couldn’t I haul her chair around Macy’s one last time, why can I walk when she can’t.

I cling to the good I did, and agonize over the rest.

Here is the file where I keep what remains of her former self. Here is the will specifying what is left to each of us “so there’ll be no fighting”. Here is the living will I insisted she make, naming me medical executor and spelling out her fears. Here is my twelve-year-old’s memory of her saying “I would rather die than be disfigured,” and my own incomprehension – You would rather die than lose a breast? and her resolute “Yes! It’s my body, my choice.”

Here is the mark of my brother’s call last month; she’s in the hospital with some kind of fever, are massive antibiotics a heroic measure? Can we put her on a respirator? Does she care any more?

They always said I resembled my father – eyes, nose, hair – but as I watched my mother being washed one day, I suddenly realized that regardless of any cosmetics I’d inherited from him, my naked body was entirely hers. Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, the very shape of my hips belongs to her genes. Later that day I napped, and took comfort in the scent still coming from her sheets, the same smell as my childhood, bringing memories of safety & joy.

My mother has been dying so long that it has become easy to forget how much I miss her, to accept the daily frustrations as part of life. instead of ridiculous complications in a life already cut short. Here is a mark for the government man who arrives each year to verify she hasn’t been miraculously cured, isn’t just too lazy to work and cheating Medicare. Here is the day her weight dropped to 69 pounds and they still wouldn’t pay for Ensure. Here is the aide my mother insisted was drunk all the time, and the mark of Cain on my forehead for believing the nurse, who said my mother exaggerated.

Here is where the aide finally passed out on the floor, then assaulted the police who came to remove her. Here is the system that assumed my mother’s handicap had also made her stupid, years before the disease affected her brain.

Janis Ian - Mother's Day

And here, clearly marked, is the day she herself realized that it had affected her brain, that all backfire sounded like gunshots now, and even the children’s laughter made her think of Auschwitz. Here is Valium, here is Prozac, here is everything we’ve tried, to keep the door between what-is and what-is-feared closed.

And here is the stuff of my nightmares: she is assaulted as she lays helpless on the bed, strangers playing with her private parts while she, fearing worse punishments to come, dares not tell me.

Here is a mark where the most recent of my former friends said “I know I should visit, but it upsets me too much to see her like this.” Here are my memories of him sitting at our dinner table every week, eating my mother’s food, asking my mother’s advice. Here is my own impotent anger at a world where people care more for their own comfort than another’s solace.

I visit when I can, I play the clown, and she laughs as I describe my life and the world outside. We watch television together in silence; I make no demands on her other than that she eat. My mother, who ran funding drives for universities and obtained a masters in playwriting at 50, is content to live in a state of Zen-like simplicity, where all answers are reduced to Yes or No, and Maybe is two letters too long for comfort.

And I am grateful for what we have, for the two aides who care for her round-the-clock, forcing her out of bed each day when she cries to stay lying down, insisting she tell them the day and month, forcing her to interact with a world that’s turned its back, massaging arms that barely feel & legs that spasm and flail in some rude dance when the drugs aren’t enough.

We are lucky, I tell my brother, she can still speak a little, she can see, she can hear. Do you think I should smother her, I ask, she trusted me to make sure she wouldn’t suffer, do you think we are really lucky?

Here is the mark where I began to dream of her, the same one I always have now. In it she is walking toward me, over a field of green filled with chaotic wildflowers that embrace and enfold her as she moves. She is rushing to greet me, arms outstretched, legs whole. She feels every motion of the wind against her skin, and as I fall into her arms I am home again, and I am safe again, at last.

© Janis Ian; all rights reserved. You are welcome to share this, with attribution.

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Janis Ian - "Breaking Silence" - A Weekend Celebration and Event

“Breaking Silence” – A Weekend Celebration and Event

In honor of The Janis Ian Archives opening in 2024, Berea College and Janis are putting on a weekend-long event (October 17-20, 2024) that mirrors the archive tour experience; bringing in musical artists and famous friends to create a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Janis Ian - "Breaking Silence" - A Weekend Celebration and Event
Janis Ian - "Breaking Silence" - A Weekend Celebration and Event
Janis Ian - "Breaking Silence" - A Weekend Celebration and Event

The Janis Ian Archives

The Janis Ian Archives are a unique resource for music history research, offering unfettered access to Ian’s life, publishing, and recording. Beginning with her grandparents’ immigration papers, circa 1916, the Archives will follow the journey of Ian’s 1937 Martin D-18 guitar, chronicle the HUAC years with insights into her parents’ FBI files (and what FBI surveillance cost Ian’s family over the decades), and then travel through the civil rights, women’s, and LGBTQ movements. Visitors to the Archives can view Janis Ian’s correspondence with other musical artists, famous friends, and collaborators.

For more details on the Breaking Silence Celebration, please email: breakingsilence@berea.edu.

Boone Tavern Hotel Discount
Boone Tavern Hotel has offered us a discounted rate for Breaking Silence guests who call in or book online using the Group ID Code 259660. The phone number is (859) 985-3700, or they may make reservations online.

Janis Ian

December Update – Tradfest, Holiday Sale & More

December 2023

There’s really not much to report that isn’t in September’s update, except for a few exciting pieces of news!

We decided to hold a small sale this holiday season, so be sure to check the Official Janis Ian Store at Shopify. The sale ends on January 2nd, so don’t delay. I’m sorry but there’s no personalization available; I need a break, too!

If you want to purchase signed items, Kris’ site (Janis Ian Signed) is also having a sale.

We’re also making my acclaimed 2006 album Folk Is The New Black completely free for a limited time. You can download either CD quality FLAC files or high quality MP3 files. You’ll find lots of other free stuff you can download there as well.

I’m headed to Ireland mid-January, where Tradfest will be honoring me with a concert of my work by old and new friends, among them “old” friends Mary Black and Eric Bibb. There’ll also be several live interviews and Q&A’s, as well as a work-in-progress screening of Varda Bar-Kar’s film Janis Ian: The Art of Song. Three years in the making, we’re getting an inside look at the film before it’s finalized; after a festival and theatrical run, the documentary will have its exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere on American Masters on PBS.

In celebration of Tradfest, I’m making free downloads of my album Folk Is the New Black available to anyone who wants them. Visit the official Janis Ian Store to download this album and other goodies as well. Enjoy!

The only other piece of “big” news is that The Janis Ian Archives at Berea College will be opening mid-October, 2024. Stay tuned and sign up for the Janis Ian Mailing List so you can get information first! We’re still working on the website pages (and hiring an event planner…), but check in with this page regularly as we get closer to the date.

Thank you all for your support. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.

Read on for more news from the past year!

Janis

Janis Ian - Worktapes & Demos Vol. 1 - Live at the Calderone Theater 1975

Two New Vintage Releases Available Now

Jeff Evans and I put together two long-planned projects which are out now! Worktapes & Demos Vol. 1 is something we’ve talked about for decades. I’ve got hundreds of first-time-into-a-microphone songs; early versions, alternate takes, rough mixes, you name it. This first album is worktapes of songs from my first three CBS albums (StarsBetween the Linesand Aftertones), plus a couple that didn’t make the recording. They’re digital only and because sales will go to the archives, Sony Publishing have graciously waived all licensing fees. (Yes, they own a lot of my work. Yes, they do a much better job with it than I would. Yes, I really love working with Esther Friedman and Eriko Nitta.)

The second, Live at the Calderone Theater 1975is a straight-through concert recorded live to tape that November. Even I was kind of stunned at how good my voice sounded, though my gosh! I’m so young!!

Meanwhile, you can buy both digital albums in a nice bundle from my own site, which will also get you a package with lyrics, artwork, notes and credits. And you can still buy signed items from my friend Kris Noyes, who’s also handling my vinyl sales.

Visit the Official Janis Ian Store

Read the latest newsletter from Janis

Janis Ian Archives

Janis Ian Donates Personal Archives To Berea College

From Janis: “Extremely happy about this!”

Multiple Grammy Award winning recording artist, songwriter and musician Janis Ian has donated her entire archives, along with her father’s 1937 Martin D-18, to Berea College’s Special Collections and Archives at Hutchins Library, where they will be made available for viewing and study in the future.

Visitors to the Berea College Special Collections and Archives will be able to view Ian’s correspondence with other musical artists, famous friends and collaborators, while flipping through song notebooks, diaries and a journal that includes Ian’s first poem, written at age 10.

Not only will fans around the globe be able to view memorabilia and materials from her decades-long career; they’ll be able to support efforts to preserve, catalog, digitize and display the priceless items at Berea and eventually in an online archive. Ian and Berea College are jointly establishing a fund to preserve the legacy of her career in perpetuity.

While many artists have received significant amounts of money for turning over their archives, The Janis Ian Archives are entirely different – Ian’s belief in Berea College is so strong that she has donated all materials without compensation. Her only stipulation is that records remain open to the public, not just academic researchers. To learn more about the Janis Ian Archives Fund or to donate, visit the Berea College website.

Read the entire announcement.

Janis Ian - The Light At The End Of The Line

Janis Receives her 10th Grammy Nomination!

Janis’ latest album, The Light At The End Of The Line, has been nominated for Best Folk Album in the 2023 Grammy Awards.

From Janis: “This is full circle for me: my first Grammy nomination ever was in 1967, also for ‘Best Folk Album’. This marks my tenth nomination, in eight different categories. It’s a bittersweet moment, given everything that’s happened this year with my ability to vocalize – but a grand one. Gratitude to everyone who participated in this completely independent piece of work, and thanks to all my colleagues for nominating me!!”

Janis Ian - Between The Lines and The Light At The End Of The Line

New Product Now Available

We’re happy to announce that we now have signed vinyl copies of Janis’ newest album, the Grammy nominated The Light At The End Of The Line. There is also a special, CD bundle of The Light at the End of the Line and a brand new, remastered, definitive version of Janis’ Grammy Award winning album Between The Lines.

Janis Ian - World Cafe

World Cafe Rebroadcast

Thanks to World Cafe for their continued support! World Cafe will re-air my exclusive performance starting Friday, June 10 on over 250 radio stations worldwide.

Find your local station.

Or tune in on demand.

Wayno & Piraro

St. Louis & Nashville Shows Postponed

It is with deep regret and not a few tears that I have to announce the postponement of my upcoming St. Louis and Nashville shows. The consensus is that despite best efforts, there is no way my laryngitis will clear up in time, and I can’t run the risk of potentially devastating injury to my vocal cords.

These two shows were supposed to wrap up my final spring tour; both places are very special to me – the Sheldon is among the best crews in the world, it’s where I shot my only live DVD, and coincidentally where my tour manager of fifteen years and I first met one another. The CMA Theater is something I watched grow from its beginning, and of course, I was a Nashville resident for 33 years. I’ve supported CMA every step of the way, from dragging out-of-towners to their old building and having the idea to give locals a financial break when we brought guests, to donating an ancient Philco upright radio Chet Atkins had worked on with me, along with all my music and theater books.

Again, both shows are being postponed. We’re already researching fall dates with the theaters. I promise, we will announce the new dates as soon as possible.

Thanks to everyone for your good thoughts and understanding. I haven’t dealt with laryngitis like this since my teens… I suppose the odds were running against me. Doesn’t make it any easier, and believe me, I feel worse about it than anyone else. Again my apologies.

Special thanks to both theater’s staffs for being so understanding, and to Wayno and Piraro for allowing me to continue posting their cartoons.

Janis Ian - World Cafe

Janis On World Cafe

From Janis: My 5-song exclusive performance with World Cafe begins airing on Tuesday, March 8 at 2:00PM EST on over 250 radio stations worldwide. Visit World Cafe on the NPR website to find your local station or tune in to WXPN Radio online and choose ‘Listen Live’ from the drop-down at the top of the page.

Janis Ian - McCabe's Guitar Shop

More Tickets Added For McCabe’s Master Class

Due to extreme demand we have opened more seats for the Master Class at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, CA on Sunday, March 13th. Though the event was previously listed as sold out, you can now buy tickets once again. Master Classes include performances.

Janis Ian has given master classes in both conventional and unconventional settings, always with an eye to passing on the legacy a five-decade-career has allowed her to experience. Although originally geared toward actors, musicians, and writers, the classes have also been used by classes in nursing, music industry accounting and management, and general audience members. In the recent past, she has worked with Berklee College of Music, The Stella Adler School, The Swannanoa Gathering, Gamble Rogers Festival, and Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Janis Ian - Last North American Tour

Final North American Tour Begins This Weekend

Janis’ final North American tour begins this weekend with a series of break-in shows in Santa Fe, NM. Yes, it really is the last tour! There are dates all over the country (with a few more still to be announced) so no matter where you live there’s a good chance Janis will be somewhere close. Take a look at the schedule and be sure to grab some tickets.

Janis Ian

Tickets For Nashville Show Available 2/11

Tickets go on sale for Janis’ show at the renowned Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater in Nashville on Friday, February 11th at 10:00AM CT. The show will feature Livingston Taylor as a special guest. Janis is calling this her “final tour of the U.S.,” follows the January release of The Light at the End of the Line—her “last solo studio album” and first album of new material in fifteen years. Beginning on Friday you can purchase tickets directly from the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

Janis Ian - The Light At The End Of The Line

New Album Now Available!

Janis’ last solo studio album, The Light At The End Of The Line, is now available at the official Janis Ian Store! A special Limited Spring Tour Bundle is available for a limited time.The album is available as a CDHi-Res downloadsCD quality downloads and high quality MP3 downloads. All songs can be purchased as individual high quality MP3 downloadsSheet music is also available for all songs.

We hope that you’ll buy direct from the artist through the above links and the artist will receive all the proceeds. If it’s easier, though, by all means go to Amazon or iTunes. We just want the music out there.

Janis Ian - New York Times Article

New York Times Article

The New York Times has published an article about the new Janis Ian album, The Light at the End of the Line.

Written by Jim Farber, and titled “Janis Ian Lets Her Music Speak Her Mind (One Last Time), the article takes a deep dive into not only the new album but Janis’ history and impact on a wide range of social and musical subjects as well. Here’s a quick preview and you can read the entire article online at the New York Times website. (Note that you may have to open a free account there to read the article.)

“On a recent morning, Janis Ian spoke expansively from her work space in Florida about a 50-year career marked by literary lyrics, social activism and major hits. Just one subject brought her up short. When pondering younger artists who’ve publicly cited her as an inspiration, she paused and threw up her arms. “I can’t think of one. So many people say, ‘Joni Mitchell is my big influence,’” she said. “And I thought, wait a minute. Didn’t I influence anybody?”

“She might not get the loudest shout-outs, but there’s no denying that Ian has often served as a cultural clairvoyant.

“In 1967, she became one of the first fully self-determined female singer-songwriters in pop, having penned every track on her debut album, which was released one month before Laura Nyro’s, a year before Joni Mitchell’s and three before Carole King’s.”

Read the entire article on the New York Time‘s website for free. (Image by Eve Edelheit for The New York Times)

Janis Ian - Better Times Will Come

“Better Times Will Come” Now Available

From Janis: “Better Times Will Come” was written the day after John Prine died, the only 3-chord song I’ve ever done. It turned into an enormous project featuring artists from 16 countries, singing and signing in 16 different languages. My original version was just sung into my phone, voice only.

When I recorded it for this album, I wanted my part to stay true to that first version, but then grow into something broader. I called Viktor Krauss, my favorite bass player, and asked him to co-produce something that would “show the times we’ve been living through”. We went through our mental Rolodexes, enlisting friends like Diane Schuur and Vince Gill, Jim Hoke and John Cowan. The direction to the players was “Don’t hold back!” and that’s just what we got.

For me, this piece illustrates the arc of fear, isolation, hope, relief, and then return to fear we keep going through as we deal with Covid-19. It’s also a tribute to my fellow artists, as we continue to do our work, offering audiences an escape and a bit of joy, even as we watched our own professions disintegrate under the weight of it all.
“Better Times Will Come” is available now on your preferred digital music service or as a digital download from the official Janis Ian Store. Sheet music is also available in the official Janis Ian Store.

You can find it on my last solo studio album, The Light at the End of the Line, coming January 21. You can also pre-order merch or pre-save the album wherever you get your music these days.

On January 21st, physical and digital copies will be available at the official Janis Ian Store.

Janis Ian - Summer In New York Video

Watch “Summer In New York” Video

Watch the video on this site or on YouTube.

Video by Carole Waechter.

From Janis: “Summer is my favorite time to be in New York. Despite the heat and humidity, there’s a hum to the city you don’t find any other time of year. Chess and congas, ice cream vendors and free outdoor concerts… it’s magical. Growing up in New Jersey, spending time in the city during the summer months was always a highlight. By the way, this was the very first video Carol Waechter, whose video of “Resist” has garnered so much press attention, ever created!”

Janis Ian: Vocal, piano
Randy Leago: Clarinet

Janis Ian - Resist

“Resist” Now Available

In the fifteen years since my last full release album, so much has changed — and yet, here we are, still fighting many of the same battles. If “At Seventeen” was released today and needed a follow up, I’d hope “Resist” would be it. You can listen and purchase it now at any of your favorite music services. Sheet music is also available in the Janis Ian Store.

Janis Ian - Celebration Our Years Together Tour

The Last Tour

Janis is planning her final tour of the US, The Last Tour, with dates starting in February 2022 and running through November. Her tours have sold out in every country she’s visited, and this one will likely follow. More information about the shows can be found on the Tour Dates page.

Janis Ian - A Thousand Years

Free Download of “A Thousand Years”

Free download!!! Janis’ old friend Shirley Cason has created a beautiful arrangement of “A Thousand Years”, the holiday song Janis wrote with Russ Taff. Enjoy this free holiday gift!

Download a free MP3 of “A Thousand Years.”

Vocals, acoustic guitar: Janis Ian
All other instruments, arrangement: Shirley Cason

Watch the video by Shirley Cason on YouTube.

Download a free PDF of the sheet music for “A Thousand Years.”

Janis Ian - I'm Still Standing

“I’m Still Standing” Now Available

Tremendously excited to announce I have a new album coming out on January 21, 2022! A “swan song” of sorts, The Light at the End of the Line will be my first full release since 2006. There’s even a single, “I’m Still Standing,” out now. You can listen and purchase it now at any of your favorite music services. I’ve spent a lifetime of writing trying to live up to the talent I was born with. Hopefully, I’ve finally managed it. Sheet music is also available in the Janis Ian Store.

Janis Ian - Celebrating Our Years Together

2022 Tour Dates

Janis’ last full North American tour will begin in late February, just after the release of her final solo studio album The Light At The End Of The Line, with a series of “break-in shows” at George R. R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Theatre in Santa Fe. The tour will continue throughout 2022 and cover most of the United States and Canada. For more information visit the Tour Dates section of the website.

Janis Ian - The Pearl Foundation

Pearl Foundation Update

Astonished and grateful to say that the Pearl Foundation has donated $44,000 in scholarship endowments for the year 2020, bringing our grand total to $1,235,500.00 in scholarship funding, with more than 75 graduates to date. Thank you all for your support!

Janis Ian - Better Times Will Come

The Better Times Project has a new, dedicated website

The Better Times Project has a new home. When this project first started, back in April, there were just a handful of artists contributing. Now there are almost 150. As the project began to grow the decision was made to create a new website for everything. We hope you like the new home. You can listen to all of the different versions of “Better Times Will Come” and watch all the videos. You can also download the songs, sheet music, lyrics, coloring pages and more. Visit the new site and let us know what you think.