She started singing, “Would you like to learn to sing? Would you like to sing my song? Would you like to learn to love me best of all?”

And I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

More than 30 years ago, my best friend re-introduced me to the Janis Ian I thought I knew through the classic “At Seventeen.” But no, there was a whole new repertoire that somehow radio and TV had failed to provide us.

Almost seven years ago, that same best friend listened to my first real original song and pronounced it good. She helped uncork the bottle that let the genie out, but as I told Janis waiting in line last night in New London, Connecticut, for her to sign a Garde Arts Center poster of her April 12 performance, it was Janis’ music, but more, her very person, her inner soul, as revealed in song, that somehow gave me permission to write and play.

“Have fun with it,” she said.

And so I shall.

Her poster now hangs above my armchair in the corner of my enclosed porch, right by a bookshelf filled with CDs, several of them hers.

Her presence among us remains vital, even if, as she confided to the audience last night, she forgot her Facebook password and is still trying to figure out how to get back in by identifying 10 friends’ faces out of more than 4,000! She’ll be back though, on Facebook, I predict, because she certainly remains very much with us in the real world.

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