At Seventeen Song – Janis Ian | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#3) & Adult Contemporary (#1); 1975

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

Inspired by the likes of Billie Holiday and Odetta, Janis Ian wrote her first song, Hair Of Spun Gold, at 12 years of age. Her ever-on-the-move family kept Janis bouncing from school-to-school in New York and New Jersey.

Only her music kept her anchored. She soon graduated from singing in school events to New York folk clubs, accompanying herself on guitar and piano.

A few weeks after her 16th birthday, Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking) – a song about interracial romance that she’d written two years earlier – entered the pop chart. It peaked at #14 in mid-July.

Despite her remarkable success, Janis didn’t care for the music business or the boredom of same-set performances, and she “retired” in 1968.

Janis returned to the charts in 1973 as the writer of Jesse, recorded by Roberta Flack. In 1975 At Seventeen from her Between The Lines album became Janis’ biggest hit ever.

At Grammy time Janis grabbed five nominations and won for Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Janis Ian

Lyrics Written by:

  • Brooks Arthur


  • At Seventeen” won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female at the 18th Annual Grammy Awards in 1976