Monday, 28 April 2014

I learned the truth "At Seventeen" . . .

I've written before about Janis Ian with her first single (see Society's Child in a previous post).
She received some flack for being so bold, releasing such a song that challenged society's attitudes to interracial relationships in the 60s.  Another one of her songs that I have felt has had some resonance with me, is her comeback hit of 1975, for which she won Best Female Pop Vocal at the 1976 Grammy Awards.

The live performance of this song at the 1976 Grammy Awards shows a brilliant lead guitar solo while Ian provides the rhythmic guitar accompaniment.  Musically, At Seventeen has that wonderful Spanish-Latin feel about it, giving a deceptively soothing laidback feel that doesn't align with the lyrics that bemoan the almost bitter reality faced by a seventeen year old, or from the bitter memories of a woman who recalls the harsh realities of being a seventeen year old and the truths that shaped the current situation of their life.  There are moments of whimsical fantasy, seeing how life favoured those more beautiful, the perception that their life is easier because of their physical beauty and that it opens up a privileged life of leisure for the lucky few (including marriage and early retirement).

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"

Depending on how you view this, I wonder about who is being served here?  Are we talking about the ugly duckling who serves and gets what they deserve? Which from the tone of the song, doesn't sound like much.  But I think about the flip side as well, those who are all about self-service/serve themselves and that by doing so, only get what they deserve too i.e. only out for number one....

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...

Thankfully I had a great time at high school.  Music was my saving grace.  I was involved in everything musical that was available - singing, playing instruments, performing.  I remember going to school just to be granted the privilege to perform and showcase our musical skills, my friends and I. Some of our famous audience members included Dame Cath Tizard and Prince Charles at Government House.  

At seventeen, I was at my first year of college/university, studying for a Bachelor of Music degree.
Dreams were definitely for free - but I didn't even consider being an ugly duckling.
Having remembered the fairy tale as a child, I was always happy in the knowledge that the ugly duckling would be transformed into a beautiful swan.