Janis Ian (born Janis Eddy Fink, April 7, 1951) is a Grammy Award-winning American songwriter, singer, multi-instrumental musician, columnist, and science fiction fan-turned-author. She had a highly successful singing career in the 1960s and 1970s, and has continued recording into the 21st century.
Born to a Jewish family in New York City, she was primarily raised in New Jersey, initially on a farm, and attended East Orange High School and the New York City High School of Music & Art. Her parents, Victor (a music teacher) and Pearl, ran a summer camp in upstate New York, and, in that Cold War era, were frequently under government surveillance because of their left-wing politics. (Ian would allude to these years later in her song "God and the FBI"). Young Janis admired the work of folk pioneers such as Joan Baez and Odetta. At the age of twelve, Ian wrote her first song, "Hair of Spun Gold," which was subsequently published in the folk publication Broadside and was later recorded for her debut album. At age thirteen, she legally changed her name to Janis Ian, her new last name being her brother Eric's middle name.
At the age of fourteen, Ian met producer George "Shadow" Morton, at the time best-known for his work with The Shangri-Las, and was signed to a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Two years later she had a national hit single with "Society's Child" (see below), but she recalled in her autobiography that her growing fame made her time in high school difficult, as her teachers frequently made comments about her budding career and, despite her achieving good grades on exams, failed her in every subject due to her frequent absences to perform. She later dropped out of the High School of Music and Art with her teachers' blessing.