Judy Collins

Judy CollinsFrom: Seattle, WA, USA

Judy Collins (born Judith Marjorie Collins) is an American singer/songwriter known for her eclectic tastes in musical styles. She has recorded folk, show tunes, pop, rock and roll, and standards, among others. Collins is also known for her social activism.

The eldest of five, Collins was born in Seattle, Washington, living there for the first ten years of her life. Her family moved to Colorado in 1949 as a result of Judy’s father’s work. Here, she studied classical piano with Antonia Brico, making her public debut at the age of thirteen. Brico was far from thrilled in Judy’s developing interest in folk music, to the point where Collins made the tough decision to discontinue her piano lessons. Years later, after becoming know internationally, Collins invited Brico to one of her concerts. At the end, when the two women met, Brico is said to have told Collins “Little Judy – you really could have gone places.”

Some of the biggest influences on Collins’ music were Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Her music became popular at the University of Connecticut, where her husband was a professor. Collins performed at parties and for the campus radio station. Judy Collins eventually ended up in Greenwich Village, where she busked and played clubs until she was signed by Elektra Records. Collins would remain associated with Elektra for the next 35 years. Her debut album, A Maid Of Constant Sorrow, was released in 1961, at the age of 22.

Initially, Judy Collins sang traditional folk songs or songs written by others, especially artists such as Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan. Also, Collins was known for bringing little-known artists to a wider audience. She recorded songs by Canadian poet Leonard Cohen, and singer/songwriters Eric Andersen, Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Robin Williamson, and Richard Farina well before any of them gained recognition.

In 1966, Judy Collins’ music really started to develop and show off her diversity as a musician. Her album In My Life was produced by Mark Abramson and arranged by Joshua Rifkin. Rich orchestration was added to many of the songs, and the album was regarded as a major departure for a folk artist. The album set the course for her subsequent work for over a decade. Abramson would also produce Collins’ next album, 1967’s Wildflowers. On this record, Collins began using her own compositions. She also had a major hit with Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides Now,” which went up to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Collins continued her solid work with 1968’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes. Stephen Stills, who was romantically involved with Collins at the time, played back-up guitar on the album. In fact, Collins is the inspiration behind the CSN song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

By the 1970s, Judy Collins became known as an art song singer and folksinger, known for her broad range of material. Also during the ’70s, Collins guest starred on The Muppet Show, singing “Leather-Winged Bat,” “I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly,” “Do Re Mi,” and “Send In The Clowns.” She also appeared on Sesame Street on a number of occasions. Later on in her career, Collins took to writing and producing a memoir and writing a novel. She continued to write and record music well into the 2000s.

Collins has always been a strong participant in social activism. Her political idealism led her to compose the ballad “Che” in honor of the 1960s Marxist icon Che Guevara. She also sympathized with the Yippie movement, and was friendly with leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. In 1969, Collins went to Chicago to testify for the Chicago Seven, and is currently a representative for UNICEF, campaigning on behalf of the abolition of land mines. ~ Wikipedia

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1967 album Wildflowers
Judy Collins - Wildflowers

  • Both Sides Now