116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Janis Ian isn't on a “final” tour ala Kiss or Cher. The veteran folkie, who will perform Sunday at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, insists this is her final run through North America.
“This is not like Cher,” Ian said with a laugh. “I will no longer tour. I'm not saying that I won't do a festival, but I'm not going to go from town to town. It’s a very time-consuming life and it’s so demanding if you want to put on a good show every night.”
Ian, 71, has put in her time. The Joan Baez acolyte wrote “Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)” at 14 and it became her first hit. However, the song, inspired by interracial relationships, which were taboo during the ’60s, was so controversial that it was banned in some markets.
"We've come a long way, but we're still not there yet," Ian said while calling from Stoughton, Wis.
She also hit the charts with “At Seventeen.” The powerful tune, which peaked at number three on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, remains relevant, with its themes of adolescent cruelty and teen angst.
“I believe that ‘At Seventeen’ is still meaningful,” Ian said. “It’s a harsh world.”
Ian won the 1976 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a female courtesy that song, beating out such icons as Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy.
“That was an amazing honor,” Ian said.
The common denominator of many of Ian’s songs is a protagonist on the periphery.
“I think much of my view in life reflects on how I grew up,” she said. “I grew up in New Jersey, where you feel like an outsider. But growing up there gives you this willingness to go to the mat. You don’t have much to lose when you grow up there and you’re looking at New York.”
Ian has had a solid career in which she has released 24 albums, including her latest, “The Light at the End of the Line.”
“I want to play some of my new songs like ‘I'm Still Standing’ and ‘Resist.’ but I have to be respectful of the balance of songs at the show,” Ian said. “It’s about who comes out to my shows.”
She is just pleased to be back on the road.
“It’s such a crazy time, considering all that we have experienced with COVID,” she said. “But my shows have been going great. My shows have been sold out about 80 percent of the time. I'm impressed, considering what we’re going through with COVID. People want to experience the power of songs. I'm thrilled I have the chance to see friends, fans and cities one more time.”
One of her favorite venues to play is the Englert.
“There's no doubt that the Englert is at the top of the list for me,” she said. “It’s sad to say goodbye to the venue, but I have to acknowledge how great the crew is there.
“The Englert experience is just extraordinary. The Englert has a tradition of welcoming you to town the minute you arrive. You walk onstage there, surrounded by people that are rooting for you. And then there are the fans, who are wonderful in Iowa. I'm so glad the Englert is part of my farewell tour.”
There will be life after touring for Ian. Don't expect the very first musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” to sip coffee while watching reruns of “Columbo” during the afternoon while relaxing in her Tampa home. Ian will continue to write songs and write science fiction, being a published science fiction author since 2003.
“I love writing science fiction,” Ian said. “My dad was a huge science fiction fan. He was a great storyteller and I grew up watching ‘Twilight Zone’ with him. Science fiction provides some great theater. I love it. I'll continue to create,” she said.
“I’ll be busy after this final tour ends. Don't worry about that.”