Stars - Janis Ian
After the success of "Society's Child" at the age of 16, Janis Ian failed to make a significant impression on the single or the album charts until the release of "At Seventeen" some eight years later. Having been a teen prodigy of whom much was expected, she rapidly sank into that particularly American "you're only as good as your last record" kind of obscurity. Seven years and two label changes after "Society's Child" hit the US Top Twenty, she released the album "Stars".
The LP cover indicated a change of image right from the start, featuring a picture of a more mature and thoughtful Ian, ostensibly naked, at least from the top of her chest upwards, signalling an adult, contemplative songwriter. The album kicks off with the title track, which delicately sets out her feelings about what she'd been through and the people surrounding her in the intervening years.
The "stars" are shooting stars, who "come and go, they come fast they come slow, they go like the last light of the sun, all in a blaze and all they see is glory, but those who've seen it all, they live lives in sad cafes and music halls, they always have a story....."
I don't know of a better, more tender description of how it feels to be a "star" whose time has passed. The song showed that Ian had a poetic compassion for people, and was a powerful songwriter whose time was to come again. The words are worth printing out in full:
"I was never one for singing what I really feel Except tonight, I'm bringing everything I know that's real Stars, they come and go They come fast or slow They go like the last light of the sun, all in a blaze And all you see is glory But it gets lonely there When there's no one here to share We can shake it away if you'll hear a story People lust for fame Like athletes in a game we break our collarbones And come up swinging Some of us are downed Some of us are crowned And some are lost and never found But most have seen it all They live their lives in sad cafes and music halls They always come up singing Some make it when they're young Before the world has done its dirty job And later on, someone will say "You've had your day and you must make way" But they'll never know the pain Of living with a name you never owned Or the many years forgetting what you know too well That the ones who gave the crown have been let down You try to make amends without defending Perhaps pretending you never saw the eyes Of grown men of twenty five that follow as you walked And asked for autographs Or kissed you on the cheek And you never could believe they really loved you Some make it when they're old (Perhaps they have a soul they're not afraid to bare Or perhaps there's nothing there)
Stars they come and go
They come fast, they come slow, they go
Like the last light of the sun, all in a blaze,
And all you see is glory
Most have seen it all
They live their lives in sad cafes and music halls,
They always have a story Some women have a body Men will want to see, So they put it on display Some people play a fine guitar I could listen to them play all day Some ladies really move across a stage And gee, they sure can dance, I guess I could learn how if I have it half a chance But I always feel so funny when my body tries to soar And I seem to always worry about missing the next chord I guess there isn't anything to put up on display Except the tunes and whatever else I say Anyway, that isn't really what I meant to say I meant to tell a story I live from day to day Stars, they come and go, they come in fast, they come slow
And they go like the last light of the sun, all in a blaze And all you see is glory
But most have seen it all Who live their lives In sad cafes and music halls And we always have a story So if you don't lose patience with my fumbling around, I'll come up singing for you, even when I'm down."