“At Seventeen” was released as a single in 1975 from Janis Ian’s seventh album, Between the Lines. But it wasn’t until two years later that fans took it upon themselves to right a wrong that no one should have to experience. In Ian’s most successful track, she shared that she never received valentines.
“The valentines I never knew. The Friday night charades of youth were spent on one more beautiful. At seventeen I learned the truth.”
Nearly 500 Valentine’s Day cards were sent to the folk singer-songwriter in 1977.
However, the song isn’t about Ian. “At Seventeen” speaks to society’s beauty standards, how cruel kids can be, the illusion of popularity, and teenage angst. It was inspired by an article about a former teenage beauty queen who learned the hard way that being popular did not solve all her problems.