LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC)– Janis Ian made a big, controversial splash in the 1960’s, when she was just a teenager, with her song “Society’s Child.”

The reason? The lyrics tell the story of an interracial romance between a young white girl and black boy. The protagonist eventually chooses to end the relationship because of pressure from her family and cutting remarks made by her teachers and classmates.

But the characters in the song weren’t the only ones giving grief.

In her new audio book — “Society’s Child: My Autobiography” — Ian describes how she was greeted when she sang the tune before an audience in California: “They were shaking their fists in the air as the rest of the audience looked on in stunned silence. I was having a hit record. I was singing for people who wanted me dead. I was 15 years old.”

WNEW’S Judlyne Lilly spoke to Ian, who is now 61, about reflecting on her experiences for her book.

janis ian book cover

“One of the things that I learned from ‘Society’s Child’ was the power of music, because people were so frightened by it and yet a whole other group of people were so united by it,” she told Lilly.

In 2001, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. This year, Ian won a Best Spoken Word Album Grammy for the audio version of her autobiography, beating out First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres.

Ian, while she has made a name for herself in the literary world, is still a musician at heart. Her latest album is titled Folk Is The New Black.

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