At Seventeen

At Seventeen (Janis Ian)

  • 18 Aug 12:24
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"At Seventeen" is a song by Janis Ian, released in 1975 on Between the Lines (her seventh studio album) and as a single. Ian's most successful recording, the song is a commentary on adolescent cruelty, the illusion of popularity, and teenage angst, as reflected upon from the maturity of adulthood. It is told from the point of view of a woman who was an "ugly duckling" as a girl and ignored in high school while the popular (albeit shallow) girls got all of the attention.

Janis Ian, then 22, wrote "At Seventeen" in 1973 at her mother's house over the course of three months. In her autobiography Society's Child, Ian says that the song was inspired by a newspaper article about a former teenage debutante who learned the hard way that being popular did not solve all her problems. The article included the quote, "I learned the truth at eighteen"; Ian found that the word "seventeen" worked better than "eighteen" when she tried to put this lyric with the samba-style melody she had been composing on guitar. She also says she initially did not want to record or perform the song because she felt it was far too personal to share, but eventually changed her mind after adding the song's final...

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