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At 61, singer-songwriter Janis Ian gets ninth Grammy nomination -- in Spoken Word category

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

At 13, folk singer Janis Ian began writing her breakthrough hit, Society’s Child. She got a 1967 Grammy nomination and later, at 50, Ian saw the song inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

At 24, she released the chart-topping At Seventeen, which brought her four more Grammy nominations for the album Between the Lines and won her Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Three more Grammy nominations followed between 1978 and 1992. This year, at 61, she’s up for a ninth, for reading her autobiography, also titled Society’s Child.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” says Ian, worried that her songwriting peers might pass over the Spoken Word category. “A lot of people I know who are musicians, they just skip it.”

Ian, who’ll perform two South Florida concerts in early May, begins every chapter by singing a few of her own lyrics. “I’m the only music book and the only book with music,” she says.

Society's Child: My Autobiography | [Janis Ian]There’s been Internet buzz that three of this year’s five Spoken Word nominees are lesbians. Even Ian’s publicist headlined a news release, “LESBIANS TAKE OVER THE GRAMMYS’ SPOKEN WORD CATEGORY.”

“It’s weird. I don’t want to be known as a lesbian,” says Ian, who’s been out of the closet for decades and married to her partner for nine years. “But she’s a publicist and it’s her job to put out things that are catchy.”

Ian’s fellow nominees: Rachel Maddow (Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power); Ellen DeGeneres (Seriously...I’m Kidding); former President Bill Clinton (Back To Work: Why We Need Smart Government For A Strong Economy); and first lady Michelle Obama (American Grown).

“They're all sitting there scratching their heads saying how did she get in there?” Ian says of her nomination. “And none of them needed a publicist, I might add.”


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