The best thing you can learn from the worst times of your life is that it always gets better. It may take a month, a year, a decade, but it will get better if you leave yourself open to it.
At the age of thirteen, Ian wrote and sang her first hit single, “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking)“, about an interracial romance forbidden by a girl’s mother and frowned upon by her peers and teachers: the girl ultimately decides to end the relationship, claiming the societal norms of the day have left her no choice. Produced by George “Shadow” Morton and released three times between 1965 and 1967, “Society’s Child” finally became a national hit upon its third release after Leonard Bernstein featured it in a TV special titled Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The song’s lyrical content was taboo for some radio stations, and they withdrew or banned it from their playlists accordingly; in her 2008 autobiography Society’s Child, Ian recalls receiving hate mail and death threats as a response to the song, and mentions that a radio station in Atlanta that played it was burned down. In the summer of 1967, “Society’s Child” reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, the single having sold 600,000 copies, and the album 350,000.
Ian relates on her website that, although the song was originally intended for Atlantic Records and the label paid for her recording session, the label subsequently returned the master to her and quietly refused to release it. Years later, Ian says, Atlantic’s president at the time, Jerry Wexler, publicly apologized to her for this. The single and Ian’s 1967 eponymous debut album were finally released onVerve Forecast; her album was also a hit, reaching #29. In 2001, “Society’s Child” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings considered timeless and important to music history. Her early music was compiled on a double CD entitled Society’s Child: The Verve Recordings in 1995.
At the end of the day, all you can hope for is to go on. The older I get, the more I realize that just keeping on keeping on is what life’s all about.
Once you’re halfway home, you know that you can probably get the rest of the way there.
It seems to be part of the human condition to need someone you can look down on. I still don’t get that one.
I was one of I think three white girls in my school. So, I was very much an outsider. And plus I was Jewish and all of my friends were black and Baptist because they listen to the coolest music. We were all listening to Ray Charles and what was then called race music.
I started ‘Society’s Child’ on a bus in East Orange as I was going home from school. I saw a black and white couple sitting there and started thinking about it.
I see interracial couples all the time in Nashville. I’m a Jew in Nashville. I’m a gay person in Nashville. It’s a non-issue in most of the time. That’s a huge leap forward.
“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
and high school girls with clear skinned smiles
who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth
And those of us with ravaged faces
lacking in the social graces
desperately remained at home
inventing lovers on the phone
who called to say – come dance with me
and murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen
A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
whose name I never could pronounce
said – Pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve
The rich relationed hometown queen
marries into what she needs
with a guarantee of company
and haven for the elderly
Remember those who win the game
lose the love they sought to gain
in debentures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
in dull surprise when payment due
exceeds accounts received at seventeen
To those of us who knew the pain
of valentines that never came
and those whose names were never called
when choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
when dreams were all they gave for free
to ugly duckling girls like me
We all play the game, and when we dare
we cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
that call and say – Come dance with me
and murmur vague obscenities
at ugly girls like me, at seventeen”
© Mine Music Ltd./EMI Music Publishing Japan Ltd.
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