Saturday, September 10, 2011

Songs That Changed the World--The Most Important Songs of the Rock Era: "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian

Logic would tell you that not all of The Most Important Songs of the Rock Era* are positive songs about mankind.  Some point out our shortcomings.  We all know that kids say the most hurtful things because they haven't learned one of the most important lessons yet--if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all.  Some adults never learn that.

But in 1975, Janis Ian put this song out there and it caused millions of people to look inward, reassess their lives and change how they treat others.  In every person that we see in our lives, there's a soul, a spirit.  For people over the age of 17, this incredible song perhaps caused some regrets about the way they had behaved through school.  If anyone under 17 can grasp this message, they are way ahead of the rest of us.  Here is the YouTube version with the biting lyrics below of one of the most powerful songs ever written.

"At Seventeen"
by Janis Ian

Words and Music by Janis Ian

I learned the truth at seventeen,
That love was meant for beauty queens.
In high school, girls with clear-skin 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."

And the rich-relationed, hometown queen,
Marries into what she needs.
With a guarantee of company,
And haven for the elderly.

Remember those who win the game,
Lose the love they sought to gain.
In debentures [3] of quality,
And dubious integrity.
The small-town eyes will gape at you,
In dull surprise, when payment due,
Exceeds accounts received.
At seventeen.

[Instrumental break.]

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.
And dreams were all they gave for free,
To ugly-duckling girls like me.

We all play the game and when we dare,
To cheat ourselves at solitaire.
Inventing lovers on the phone,
Repenting other lives unknown,
That call and say, come dance with me,
An' murmur vague obscenities,
At ugly girls like me,
At seventeen.

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