“I think people who are creative are the luckiest people on earth. I know that there are no shortcuts, but you must keep your faith in something Greater than You, and keep doing what you love. Do what you love, and you will find the way to get it out to the world.” — Judy Collins
Judith Marjorie Collins was born on this day in Seattle, Washington in 1939. She is 74 years old.
She grew up the oldest of five siblings in Denver, Colorado.
Her father had a great influence on her. He was a musician, singer and radio broadcaster and he introduced the family to a variety of music. “Collins credited her father for teaching her how to pick good songs.” [Biography.com] At first Judy thought she would be a classical pianist. “She began studying classical piano with conductor Antonia Brico. At the age of 13, Collins made her debut with a local orchestra.” [Ibid] But as talented as she was at the piano, she found that the softer sounds of the acoustic guitar better suited her. She followed… “her passion for folk music, especially the songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.” [Ibid]
By 1959 she was playing clubs. A year later she’d moved to New York City and was at the heart of the Greenwich Village folk scene playing at the Village Vanguard and the Gaslight. Her debut album A Maid of Constant Sorrow came out in 1961.
Collins had a knack for choosing her songs that both fit her voice and told an intreguing story.
She interpreted the songs of fellow artists – particularly the social poets of the time such as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton. Judy was instrumental in bringing other singer-songwriters to a wider audience including poet/musician Leonard Cohen – and musicians Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman. [Judy Collins. com]
In 1967 she sang Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” for her album Wildflowers. It became her signature song. The song won Collins a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1968 and charted at #8 on the US pop singles chart and #3 on Billboard’s Easy Listening survey.
She followed that up with another impressive collection of covers in Who Knows Where the Time Goes. It reached #29 on the Billboards Pop Album chart. Here’s the title song off that album:
In 1970 she broadened the scope of her song book adding traditional (Amazing Grace) and Broadway tunes t0 the mix. She also began to include original songs. Her rendition of Send In the Clowns from Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 musical A Little Night Music became a Top 20 hit.
Collins has put out over 35 albums in her 50 year music career, the latest of which is Bohemian.
In 1999, Judy founded her own record label, Wildflower Records – a grass roots artist driven label committed to nurturing fresh talent. The aim of the label is to develop long-term relationships with artists and their representatives in a way that Judy’s own career was nurtured by major labels.[Judy Collins. com]
She has written several books most notably the memoirs Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival, and Strength (2006)– about the death of her son — and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music (2011), and her novel, Shameless.
Collins continues to produce music, tour and lecture on mental health and suicide prevention.