The second time appears to be the charm for Janis Ian, who is set to headline Saturday’s Iowa Women’s Music Festival in Iowa City for the second year in a row.
Ian — known to younger fans of the movie “Mean Girls” and television’s “The Simpsons” — was slated to headline last year’s festival, but the folk singing/songwriting legend had to bow out following surgery on her left hand.
She’ll headline the 18th annual festival, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. on the outdoor stage in Upper City Park, with music, food and festivities for all ages. The music then moves to the Englert Theatre for Ian’s 8 p.m. concert, featuring an opening set by Pinchas Zukerman’s daughter, Natalia, and Garrison Starr — who is not Ringo’s daughter.
“(Ian) defies age groups. Her music is just as real, just as applicable today as it was in the ’60s, when I wasn’t even alive,” says event co-producer Lisa Schreihart of Cedar Rapids. “Younger people today are listening to her. She’s right on. It’s not going to just be older people at the show, it’s going to be all ages. That’s very exciting for us,” Schreihart says.
Ian says audience members will hear “old songs and new songs — a combination of the two.”
“I don’t like to have people who come to hear ‘At Seventeen’ and ‘Society’s Child’ go home disappointed,” she says. “I leave Sept. 15 for Europe, so this might be the last show before that. The last show of the year in your home country is a big deal. It’s nostalgic,” she says.
On a previous international tour Ian says she narrowly missed the tsunami in Japan, ending her tour there about a month before the devastation hit. And she and her partner, Patricia, live in Nashville, which had its own flooding issues in May 2010.
“We were very lucky,” she says. “We had only minor damage, but we have friends who pretty much lost everything. It gives you a new respect for water.”
With that personal history, she understands what Iowans have been through and says she’s happy to return to an area that’s been good to her and important to her family.
“My cousin was born there,” she says. “I wrote a song ‘Jenny,’ subtitled ‘Iowa Sunrise,’ when she was born. I recorded it with Chick Corea, so that’s a nice memory.”
She invites fans to tape the concert and bring their vintage Ian vinyls for her to autograph afterward.
Born Janis Eddy Fink on April 7, 1951, she grew up on a farm in south New Jersey, asked for piano lessons at age 2, added French horn and trumpet, taught herself to play guitar at 10, changed her name at 13, wrote “Society’s Child” at 14, left high school after 10th grade, earned her GED, turned down Woodstock and “The Graduate,” and was the first musical guest on “Saturday Night Live.”
“I was fortunate to have parents who had absolute faith in me to be anything I wanted to be. I’m a second generation American, and I was fortunate to grow up in a time where questioning was encouraged. That all makes for a good songwriter,” she says.
These days, she describes herself as “a songwriter and musician.”
“Mostly I’m a writer. The past five or six years, I’ve been writing my book and my ‘Stars’ anthology. I write short stories. I’m going to take a lot of next year working on my project with (an audio) version of my book, earning a living and trying to have a good time doing it.”
— Diana Nollen
What: Janis Ian with Natalia Zukerman and Garrison Starr at Iowa Women’s Music Festival
- When: 8 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
- Admission: $25 reserved seating for Ian concert
- Information: (319) 335-1486, email@example.com or www.prairievoices.net