Ella Fitzgerald praised her as “the best young singer in America.” Reviewers have said that her live performances are “overwhelming to the spirit and soul” and “drenched with such passion, the audience feels they’ve been swept up in a hurricane.” Fans of folk singer Janis Ian will get to experience that passion next Saturday as she will perform at Queens Theatre in the Park in Flushing Meadows Park.
“I’ve been performing since I was 15 and lived in the New York area so many years, I’ve never played Queens,” the singer said in a telephone interview.
Ian, 61, said “it’s great” to be performing here for the first time and that she is not a stranger to the area. “My best friend, Jane, used to live in Flushing, so I’m reasonably familiar with it because we would meet under the clock all the time,” she said.
Born in New York City, her talent for music was evident at a young age. She started playing piano at the age of 2, but switched to the guitar at 10, saying that she hated scales and studying. “I figured out that while you couldn’t carry a piano, you could carry a guitar, and that was it,” she noted in her website biography.
Among her influences, she lists Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, but also the genres of rock, pop and jazz.
She wrote her first song when she was 12 and had her first hit single at 14, “Society’s Child.” The song was about an interracial romance between a black boy and a white girl.
It was a controversial piece that was banned on numerous radio stations and was the cause of a radio station in Atlanta being burned down. In the summer of 1967, the song reached 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single sold 600,000 copies and in 2001, Ian was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
She had her biggest hit in 1975 with the song “At Seventeen.” Best described as an “anthem for disaffected teenagers,” it brought her five Grammy nominations. She took home the Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Ian said what appeals to her about folk music is the ability to link with everyone. “There’s a connection to people that I don’t think you get with pop,” she said. “It’s not limited. It crosses genre, it crosses race, culture, age, nationality.”
The audience can expect to hear some of her classics and new songs that she has written. She will also perform guitar solos.
Ian will perform at the Queens Theatre in the Park on Saturday, April 21 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $44. Call the box office at (718) 760-0064.
Janis Ian concert
When: Saturday, April 21, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Where: Queens Theatre in the Park, Flushing Meadows Park
Call: (718) 760-0064