I've said in previous posts how much I really admire and respect singer/songwriters.
I stumbled across another artist who fits in this category just this week - yet she's been around since she burst onto the scene in 1965 with this blockbuster hit. I'm surprised I haven't come across her work before as I taught a young girl in the late 90s how to sing at a contemporary music studio - but she was obsessed with music of the 60s. Janis Ian's contemporaries included such folk singers and female artists as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins, the latter who she pipped at the post at the 1976 Grammy Awards winning Best Pop Female Vocal.
I love the way Ian weaves the story of the mother's treatment of the boyfriend when he comes to call at her house,
But honey he's not our kind
how teachers and members of the student body pass judgement,
Why don't you stick to your own kind
The emphasis on the black boyfriend not being not our kind, so you should stick to your own kind highlights for me the irony that the emphasis is on the word "kind" in reference to race, rather than words or acts of kindness. The phrase stick to your own kind also reminds me of Anita's line to Maria in West Side Story when she finds out of her love for Tony.
Society's Child is a blockbuster for so many reasons, a song that speaks about the climate of society's attitudes towards interracial relationships in a time of great unrest in America. Ian makes this possible by sharing the different perspectives, yet they converge as a collective voice in the chorus - which musically is steeped in an almost dream-like state,
I can't see you anymore baby
I can't see you anymore
The girl in the song has aspirations to bring about social change in the attitudes towards her and her boyfriend, but knows that the world is not quite ready:
One of these days I'm gonna stop listening
Gonna raise my head up high
To me, these words seem to be the only solution to the problem of society (at the time) not being able to accept the interracial relationship between a white girl and a black boy. I think about - has society's attitudes changed much at all? Have we moved on completely from these attitudes since the 60s?
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'm only society's child" makes me think about being a "product" of society, being taught to think and feel by confirming to what society wants me to think and feel, especially if I want to be accepted and be able to blend in with everyone else (can different races blend in well with each other in ways that we aspire them to without discrimination?).
One of these days I'm gonna raise up my glistening wings and fly
But that day will have to wait for a while. . .