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Janis Ian: Billie's Bones

Janis Ian: An Icon

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Janis Ian

Billie's Bones

In 1966 at age 15, Janis Ian released her first album. Her controversial song of interracial love, "Society's Child," topped the charts and set the stage for a long recording career. Now in her 50s, "Billie's Bones" is Janis Ian's 18th studio album and shows that this musical icon has not lost her touch.

Tribute to Billie Holiday

Billie's Bones, the title song on this folk album, is a tribute to one of Ian's heroes, Billie Holiday. From the moment she opens her mouth on this, her 18th studio album, one of the most recognizable voices of the 1960s folk scene comes out as clear as ever. After almost 40 years in the music industry, Janis Ian shows she still has what it takes to make an excellent album.

Looking Back on her Life

If there is a theme to this album, it is one of reverie. Ian seems to be looking back at her life. Hear You Sing Again is a song co-written with another folk icon, Woodie Guthrie, in which she longs to hear her mother's voice. It's a sweet melody, but I would have loved to hear Woodie join her on this tune.

In Paris In Your Eyes, and Amsterdam Canadian Ian reminisces about former loves in foreign lands.

Matthew Shephard and Dolly Parton

In eerily slow jazz tune, Matthew Ian pays tribute to the death of murdered gay college student Matthew Shephard:

What makes a man a man?
The cut of a coat, the hint of a tan?
It's not who you love, but whether you can
What makes a man a man?

The breakout song on this album, though is My Tennessee Hills, a duet with country legend Dolly Parton. The two women's voices compliment each other like a sunset and a pristine lake. It's full of country twang and heart.


If there's one thing Janis Ian is known for, it's songwriting. Perhaps the best example on this album is Mockingbird:

If I had a mockingbird
for every tear I've shed
the skies would rain with laughter
everytime I raised my head

Janis Ian is a musical icon who happens to be a lesbian. For more than 40 years she's been making great music. Billie's Bones is one in a long line of excellent albums.

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