IT'S NOT "RETIRING".
* A note for people not interested in my fabulous life.
Please scroll down to the information about our upcoming Pearl Foundation Sale. It's a really good thing.
And now, on to the news...
I woke up one day last spring, grabbed a coffee, and immediately headed for the computer. A few hours of email, a few more hours of business, maybe a break for lunch... why should my 65th birthday be different from any other day?
At that thought, I stopped mid-stride, took a deep breath, and said to the room at large "Today is the first day of the rest of my life."
Yeah, I know what you're thinking.
Geez, what a cliché!
And yet, a cliché becomes a cliché because it's true.
A year before, almost to the day, I'd sat down and tried to figure out what I wanted from my life. By God, I was tired. I'd been working full-time since the age of 15. I'd been places other people only dreamed of, had amazing experiences... but I was tired.
And the future was gaining on me.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could no longer put things off because "there'll be time to do them when I'm older."
Heck, I was "older"! In just a year, I'd be 65. Working longer hours than ever, and touring as much as I had in my twenties. Or more.
Somewhere in the back of my head, I kept thinking "Once I'm safe, once I'm financially secure, I'll slow down. I can go back to writing full time then." That's what I told myself. But here I was, still sitting on the phone or my computer ten hours a day, five days a week. Still spending weekends catching up with any business I hadn't been able to complete during the week. Talking, arguing, planning with record companies, agents, publishers, licensing organizations, all the machinery I'd been dealing with since I was fourteen. And to what end?
Theoretically, to solidify my career so I'd have more choices.
Theoretically, to reach a point where I could slow down, move away from business, and finally spend my days being a creative artist.
I just needed a little more time, right?
But that morning, I realized time would not stop for me. No matter what I did, what I accomplished, time would move on. And I wanted to move on with it, into the next phase of my life.
* * *
Getting older is weird. No one warns you what it's really like. Then again, if they tried, you wouldn't believe them. Because you're always the exception.
Over the course of two months last summer, my wife Pat had knee replacement surgery and terrible drug complications. I got sick and was out of commission for three weeks. Our closest mutual friend, the woman who'd introduced us 26 years earlier, passed away. The next morning, Pat woke in excruciating pain with a dangerously high fever, and I rushed her to the hospital with what turned out to be the parvo virus. (Yes, we also thought only dogs got it.)
Those months brought my life into sharper focus. As awful as they were, I was grateful to be home for them.
Working as part of an ensemble, first with Laurie Metcalf and the Getting On team, then with David and his band, clarified something else for me. I missed spending time with other artists on a regular basis. Missed it desperately.
And writing. Good gosh, I missed writing! Having time to get bored, pick up a guitar, and amuse myself with something that might turn into a song. Time to sit down with pad and pen and throw ideas onto a page, never knowing where they'd end but enjoying the journey.
I couldn't do any of those things if I was on the road two-thirds of the year. And the years were getting shorter.
So... I decided to stop touring. Because no matter how much I love performing live, I never intended to do it full time. I've always been a writer first, and that means – for me at least – staying in one place. I finished out my commitments, left the booking agency I'd been working with, and started turning down gigs.
Of course, the minute I did that Ginny Gilder asked me to come to LA and narrate her autobiography. Yes, of course.
Lincoln Center called to say it had been almost 50 years since I'd opened their first "pop" series, could I come full circle and play there again? I'd be honored.
Would we celebrate my 10th Grammy nomination by attending the Grammy Awards and Clive Davis' party? How could I say no?
San Diego Women's Chorus asked me to headline their next benefit, giving me a chance to work with an 80-voice chorus – what fun!
Sarah Partridge was doing an album of my songs, would I fly in for a duet? Sure, great.
Swannanoa Gathering invited me to Asheville for a few weeks. Summer camp for grownups. Absolutely.
Could I spend a weekend in Pittsburgh at my fans' annual "Jan-nic barbecue" to raise funds for the Pearl Foundation. Yes, of course.
So much for staying home.
* * *
Growing old seems to be a process, much as entering adulthood was a process. Part of it is frightening – knowing that no matter what I do, my body will continue to deteriorate. Losing friends and family. Worrying about the future, now that I'm old enough to know just how much can go wrong.
And part of it is just plain funny. The grocery bagger sees my white hair, and grabs my bags as though I'll break if I lift them. The 5 pm New Year's dinner reservation, since we'll be asleep well before the ball drops. The four-year-old sitting on the couch across from me, asking in all innocence if I'm dead yet.
I strive to enjoy those moments while reminding myself that they are, in fact, just moments. To calm my nerves, I mutter my new mantra: It's not retiring, it's re-wiring.
I'm still taking a few shows a year, because I love performing. But I'm not going out for weeks and months at a time, and I'm saying pretty close to home. Which means I finally have time to devote to other things I love.
For instance, I had time to organize a Pearl Foundation sale this year. (How's that for a seamless segue way....) We're building a brand new storefront, and the website store will re-open with a bang at 6:00AM (CST) Saturday, October 15th!! The sale will end at 6:00PM (CST) Saturday, October 22nd. In addition to everything we normally carry, we'll finally be able to offer:
Important Note: The following links will not work until the sale begins on Saturday, June 15th at 6:00AM (CST).
● A long overdue re-issue of Breaking Silence, as mp3, flac, and physical CD;
AND, just for the sale, at really fantastic prices:
● Ten "D'addario Musician's Kits", with the usual guitar gear plus a beautiful leather notebook, luthier's apron, and much more;
● Strictly Solo, a CD available only at live shows and during the sale;
● Re-mastered Japanese blu-ray editions of my albums, three sets available;
● Five sets of VIP laminates from various tours dating 2004-2015;
● The Stella Adler DVDs, unavailable anywhere else;
● An Evening at Doudna, a limited number of DVDs containing footage from that 2014 concert;
● Shout, Sister, Shout! a multi-artist CD tribute to the great Sister Rosetta Tharpe (including a guitar track by yours truly);
● Finally, last but not least, five copies of the classic 2005 Naked Folk Calendar, with – yes, really – me on the cover.
As always, 100% of what you spend on products during the sale will go to The Pearl Foundation. Because of people like you, we've been able to donate more than $900,000 in scholarships for returning students. So come early, stay late, tell your friends, and be part of giving back!!!
I'm looking forward to having more time on my hands. Time to walk Gracie Mae and let her sniff all she wants. Time to learn a bit more about cooking. Time to play chess with Pat, have lunch with friends, casually say "Oh yeah, I'll be around all month, come over any time."
Time. It's a beautiful thing.
Janis is now a Huffington Post contributor!
Please check "HuffPO" for two recent articles by Janis!
Thank you for not uttering the word "Jew", Mr. President
Don't Tell Me To Get Over It
A free download of "Tattoo" is available here.
Free Download of "Guess You Had To Be There"
Free download, you're welcome to share it. Visit the "Free Downloads Page."
Buddy Mondlock and I wrote this some years back, but it sure is applicable now. My first "big show" was in Chicago, with Barbara Dane and the SNCC Freedom Singers, among others. My parents ran a summer camp; Pete Seeger was one of our music counselors, along with Bernice Johnson Reagon. A group called The Minutemen planted bombs in the 6-year-old's section one year because they didn't like blacks and whites mixing. I grew up in a family of conscience, and I'm grateful for them every day.
Pearl Foundation 2016 Endowments
As always this time of year, I am thrilled to post these Pearl Foundation checks and letters, totaling $74,000 in 2016 endowments and bringing our "lifetime total" to $983,000 in scholarships for returning students.
Thank you, everyone who purchased merchandise from my website, held a living room concert, and donated some amount in return for all the free items we offer!! Couldn't have done it without you...
click on any date for full information
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All tour dates updated on January 13, 2017
Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater, New Brunswick, NJ
Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater
New Brunswick, NJ
Visit the venue's website
Tickets are on sale now.
Any questions, call 848-932-7565.
Workshops at The Atrium, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Workshops at The Atrium, Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ
Visit the venue's website
Tickets are on sale now.
Any questions, call 848-932-7565
"My Evil Twin: Dealing With Fear as an Artist"
"Archetypes in Songwriting"
"Storytelling - Living Your Artistic Life Out Loud"
More information on the Conference.
Private Show, New Jersey
NA, New Jersey
Swannanoa Gathering, Asheville, NC
Visit the venue's website
More information coming soon.