Friday, November 21, 2008

Leonard Bernstein and Janis Ian

Peter Matthews over at Feast of Music has been spending a lot of time celebrating the Leonard Bernstein centennial.

This past Saturday, he attended Bernstein Discovery Day at Carnegie Hall. As he reports, one of the guests included was Janis Ian.

They also managed to snag singer-songwriter Janis Ian, who apparently interrupted her own tour to talk about her 1967 Omnibus appearance at the age of 16, at which she was invited by Lenny to perform her hit single "Society's Child": a controversial song about an interracial romance that resulted in wide censorship and vicious attacks against Ian. Lenny didn't care about any of that: all he heard was a brilliant, groundbreaking song that incorporated both complex classical techniques and the latest innovations in electronics and pop. In other words, the kind of song that deserved to be heard on primetime national television.

Ian credits her entire career to the appearance, during which Lenny was clearly moved by her precocious ability:

"How did you ever write such a thing at such a young age?" he asked in the clip, holding her hand. "I congratulate you on what I'm certain will be a long and brilliant career."

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