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Janis Ian Society's Child Interview

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A talk with the singer-songwriter and author of a new memoir, Society's Child.

Janis Ian's initiation into rock 'n' roll was early and dramatic. In 1966, at the age of 15, she recorded Society's Child, a song she'd written about an interracial romance. It raced up the charts and caused an immediate firestorm. Ian soon became pals with some of the era's greatest musical stars, including Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

While she was fortunate not to meet their fates -- both died of drug overdoses -- Ian had her own tumultuous life. She attempted suicide, went broke, survived an abusive marriage, wrote and performed another megahit, At Seventeen, and became a lesbian activist.

Ian, 57, recounts this and more in her new memoir, Society's Child (Tarcher/Penguin). TIME reached Ian at her home in Nashville:

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