Janis Ian Documentary Film Due This Year

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Janis Ian today

Janis Ian, the singer-songwriter whose hits include such poignant anthems as “Society’s Child,” “At Seventeen” and “Stars,” is the subject of a forthcoming documentary, set for release later in 2024. The working title of the feature-length film is Janis Ian – Breaking Silence. After a festival and theatrical run, it will make its U.S. broadcast premiere on American Masters on PBS in June 2025.

A press release describes the film as “a moving and inspiring tribute to an iconic artist that blends rare archival footage with candid interviews, and performances with the intimacy of a home movie.” It continues: “The film explores themes of creativity, resilience, and social justice, as well as the power of music to inspire and connect people across generations. It looks at Ian’s six decades of trials and tribulations where she’s overcome homophobia, record industry misogyny, and a life-threatening illness to produce an indelible body of work that continues to draw large audiences around the world.”

The film will feature interviews with a wide range of creatives from the music world (Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Kathy Mattea, Janey Street, Kye Fleming, Tom Paxton, Jon Vezner) actors (Lili Tomlin, Jean Smart, Laurie Metcalf) and journalists (Ann Powers, Anthony DeCurtis, Stephen Holden).

Janis Ian – Breaking Silence is helmed by award-winning director/producer Varda Bar-Kar, best known for Big Voice (Netflix, PBS) and Fandango at the Wall (HBO, HBOMax).

Related: Another recent documentary spotlights the Immediate Family, renowned session musicians

In 2022, Ian abruptly canceled the remaining dates of her tour to support her farewell studio album, Light at the End of the Line, indicating that the laryngitis that forced her to postpone several earlier concerts “has turned out to be more complicated. There is vocal fold scarring. It’s not due to polyps or singing incorrectly. The doctors can only speculate as to why, but treatments are very limited. And it would be many months before we’d know the outcome of any treatment.”

Her post concluded on an ominous note for any performer: “It is most unlikely that I’ll ever sound like myself again. I consider myself lucky that this is not life-threatening, though the loss in my own small world is staggering.”

Ian announced the tour and album in November 2021. The album, released on Jan. 21, 2022, via her own Rude Girl Records, bookended “a kaleidoscopic catalog that began with her 1967 self-titled debut,” according to the original announcement. Her recordings are available here.

Ian, born April 7, 1951, said at the time of her retirement announcement, “I’ve already created a body of work I’m proud of, and I’m old enough to realize that it’s the light at the end of the line that matters. And I’m not calling this retiring. It’s rewiring.”

Ian earned a Top 15 in 1967 with the single, “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking),” which she wrote in her early teenage years about an interracial romance.

Eight years later, she earned her biggest success with “At Seventeen.” The song reached #3 on the Hot 100 and earned her Grammy Award nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. (She would win for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.) Its album, Between the Lines, ultimately topped the U.S. sales chart.

Watch Ian sing “At Seventeen” live in 1976

Despite that acclaim, Ian never had another hit single, though many other performers recorded her songs.

This photo of Janis Ian with the top execs at CBS Records appeared in the Aug. 28, 1976 issue of Record World

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3 Comments so far

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  1. JCB
    #1 JCB 8 April, 2022, 08:09

    Seen her twice live. She brings it. A great talent, and a gifted songwriter.

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  2. Steve Scott
    #2 Steve Scott 17 September, 2022, 01:35

    Always loved this song, the purity and honest of Janis’ vocal never ceases to amaze. Also her guitar picking absolutely encourages her lyrical delivery….Oh so sad she may never sound the same again.

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  3. Corky in KC
    #3 Corky in KC 5 January, 2024, 06:03

    Janis Ian has always fascinated me, just never caught her live. Sure sorry for that. Now I do ALL that I can to see aging artists, they might not tour again is the rationale.

    Anyway read this incredible story of her beloved stolen Martin guitar. Made this non-playing old hippie music fan cry when I read it.

    Hope it’s OK to post it here: http://www.acousticfingerstyle.com/RighteousMen.htm#top

    Take care everybody, buy the tickets & see the shows. Cause they’re sure not making money any other way these days!

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