Song of the Day for June 17: "Society's Child" by Janis Fink
Think back, what were you doing when you were 13? Trying to figure out puberty? Practicing for your bat or bar mitzvah? Reading Tiger Beat?
Janis Ian was writing songs, and not some sophomoric love songs about the boy next door. She was mature beyond her years and her socially-conscious songs showed it.
Song of the Day “Society’s Child” broke into the Billboard Top 40 on June 17, 1967. The story is about an interracial romance between two teenagers. The African American boy is humiliated by the girl’s mother and the girl is chastised by friends for having an African American boyfriend. The girl finally calls off the relationship because she crumbles under the social pressure.
Ian started the song when she was 13 while sitting outside her guidance counselor’s office. She finished it when she was 14. She wrote most of it while on the school bus.
Ian, who was born Janis Fink, was one of five white families living in a black neighborhood of East Orange, New Jersey in the mid-1960s. She said she got the idea for the song after seeing an interracial couple on a bus.
The song peaked at number 14 on the Billboard 100 in July 1967. Many radio stations wouldn’t play it because of the controversial subject.
She wasn’t a one-hit wonder, though. She released “Seventeen,” in 1975, which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Seventeen” and “Society’s Child” are in the Grammy’s Hall of Fame.