Now in her fifth decade of writing songs and performing, she’s received 10 Grammy nominations in 8 different categories, a record for a solo artist whose first nomination came at the age of 16. She lost her last Grammy (for the self-produced Patience & Sarah, co-narrated by actress Jean Smart) to President Jimmy Carter. However, two years earlier she received a Grammy for Society’s Child: My Autobiography, winning Best Spoken Word over President Bill Clinton, then-First-Lady Michelle Obama, Rachel Maddow, and Ellen DeGeneres.
Ian has been in the forefront of many controversies, “usually by accident”, she ruefully remarks. “Society’s Child”, written at age fourteen, ignited a storm for its unflinching look at an interracial relationship between a boy and girl. Her song “At Seventeen” has been featured in a multitude of anti-bullying commercials and such TV shows as The Blacklist and End of the F*!ing World. “When Angels Cry” broke ground as the first song about AIDs to be featured on a major network show, airing in six episodes of General Hospital and featuring Janis singing it in the final episode.
A columnist for Performing Songwriter and The Advocate for many years, her piece “The Internet Debacle”, about the rise of downloading and what it meant for the music industry, was prescient in its foreshadowing everything from iTunes to streaming. Going viral when it was first published, it made her a hero to a generation of tech-savvy youngsters, and was quoted in both the Grokster and Napster cases. Now used in textbooks worldwide to illustrate the controversy within the business over this new technology, it was followed by a companion piece, Fallout; both remain available for free download on https://janisian.com , along with other articles, songs, and stories.
A surprisingly active Facebook page ( https://facebook.com/janisianpage ) counts well over half a million dedicated followers, and is monitored closely by Ian herself, who jumps in with comments and discussion points regularly. The site also functions as a space for her to try out new creative ideas (like her regular series, Conversations With My Wife) and announce the few upcoming shows she’s willing to take on each year.
Both as a writer and a singer, her music has always been eclectic, reaping covers from artists as diverse as John Mellencamp, Amy Grant, Joan Baez, and Chet Atkins. (She was also one of Chet’s favorite guitarists.) As a recording artist, she’s dueted with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Mel Torme, and most recently, Trevor Sewell; their single, released only in the UK, jumped up the jazz charts, a reminder of a diverse career that saw Ian on the cover of Downbeat at 16; featured in Melody Maker at 26; honored by the Grammy Hall of Fame twice; co-starring with Laurie Metcalf, Rita Moreno, and Alex Borstein in the final episode of Getting On; receiving Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews picks for her children’s book The Tiny Mouse; and still moving forward with plans for books, recordings, and whatever else may come her way.