One of my favorite songs (from 1975)

Since I’m on a 70’s jag with my David Cassidy hair, I thought I’d share another classic – one of my favorite songs from The Seventies. I was 12 when it was released in 1975, so of course most of the lyrics didn’t hit home back then. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I truly came to appreciate the touching words of Janis Ian in “At Seventeen”. It’s heartbreaking and haunting, and yet wonderful at the same time. I heard this song on the radio last week. Yes, it was an oldies station, but I’m so glad I tuned in. Here’s your chance to walk down memory lane, if you’re of the proper age. It’s okay to sing along if you know the tune. I’ll be here singing it with you. I promise.


By Janis Ian

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth…

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say “come dance with me”
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen…

A brown-eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said: “Pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve”
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly…

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debitures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen…

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
the world was younger than today
when dreams were all they gave for free
to ugly duckling girls like me…

We all play the game, and when we dare
We cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say: “Come on, dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen…

Thank you, Janis Ian. Thank you very much.

If you want to hear it straight from Janis Ian’s lips, this video on You Tube was filmed in 1976. If you haven’t listened to this song, you should. It’s really lovely.



Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts

12 responses to “One of my favorite songs (from 1975)

  1. Wow. I’ve never heard that song before. It’s as haunting as it is beautiful.

  2. My hormones are definitely at their most sensitive right now, because I caught myself tearing up and throat constricting reading the lyrics.
    I definitely can relate!

    • Yeah, it does that to me, too. If I could give Janis Ian a hug, I would. Not just because of the angst she felt when she wrote it as a teenager, but because it’s so touching and truthful. Every young girl feels this way at some point in their lives. Heck, so do some women. I love, love, love this song.

  3. This has always been one of my favorites–and it made me cry then as well as now. But I have not thought of it in years–thanks for sharing!

  4. Amy

    I was *cough* one when this song came out. But, I have heard it and have always liked it. Don’t think I have ever seen all the lyrics like this though. It’s as beautiful as a poem as it is a song.

  5. Cindy

    OMG, I loved it then and even now… thanks for the memories and tonight was a blast from the past I won’t soon forget!

    • I know, right? For readers – we threw a bridal shower for a friend tonight. She found her true love at 53 and they’re getting married for the first time next month. We saw friends tonight we haven’t seen in years, and it was AWESOME! Just goes to show… it’s never too late to find love.

  6. Claudia

    Terrific song! Especially the lines “and those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball” haul me back in time in a split second. Just like that, I am back in the school gym, wearing mandatory long-sleeved shirts and those dreaded nylon shorts (yuck), waiting for my name to be called. I was never last, but never first either. Looking back, I wish I could go back and instill some of my present self-confidence into that seventeen year-old girl and tell her that at forty-one, life is great if you make it so!

    PS – I never thought Janis Ian to be an ugly duckling, did you?

    • I think Janis Ian is lovely. I would have loved to have had her gorgeous curls when I was younger. If you Google “Janis Ian photos” you’ll see photos of her now, and she’s just as lovely. I wonder if she knows just how special that song is to so many people. It touches a nerve for all of us, in one way or another.

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