An Interview with the legendary Judy Collins:
Judy Collins, the award-winning singer and songwriter has been captivating audiences across the globe for over five decades. Collins would rather not dwell on past successes and glory because she tenaciously plans for what’s coming up next. Judy challenges herself daily by asking … did I practice today, have I written in my journals, have I written any new songs, when’s the next show? Collins remarks … “That’s who I am and the way I’m built.”
Judy Collins most recent endeavor is a much anticipated CD/DVD release on Cleopatra Records entitled …Judy Collins Live in Ireland. The show was recorded on September 29th 2013 at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland and was recently aired on PBS. The collection features many of Judy’s cherished hits along with her favorite Celtic folk songs and stories (Including duets with Irish singer Mary Black & NY singer-songwriter Ari Hest). The collection also spotlights Judy’s brand new composition … “New Moon Over The Hudson.” This amazing CD/DVD set is available to purchase now at amazon.com.
JUDY COLLINS became a prodigy of the piano and guitar before launching a prominent stretch at local clubs in Greenwich Village. In 1961, Collins recorded her debut album with Elektra Records entitled … Maid of Constant Sorrow. Collins primarily sang cover songs by artists like Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. She also became known for introducing unknown artists to the public. She began recording songs by singer-songwriters Leonard Cohen, Eric Anderson, Randy Newman, Robin Williamson, Ian Tyson and Joni Mitchell to name a few.
In 1967, Collins released the critically-acclaimed Wildflowers (#5 on Billboard’s Pop Album Charts). The release spawned her first big hit “Both Sides, Now” (#8 on Billboard’s Hot 100) penned by Joni Mitchell. Judy won a Grammy Award in 1968 for Best Folk Performance. Collins also recorded Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” released in 1969. Throughout the 60’s, Judy Collins was usually regarded as a folk singer, but she may also have been revered as a progressive rock pioneer. Collins scored commercially again with the Ian Tyson composition “Someday Soon” that same year.
The Judy Collins release Who Knows Where the Time Goes was her first album to feature guitarist Stephen Stills who she became romantically involved with. Judy became the inspiration behind the Stills penned classic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which was performed at Woodstock in 1969 by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Collins became known for her own compositions throughout the 70’s, but also scored big hits with cover songs. Her awe-inspiring renditions of “Amazing Grace” (1970) and Stephen Sondheim’s "Send In The Clown’s" (1975 and 1977) became Top 20 Hit singles and proverbial classics.
Judy Collins profound vocalizations and musical perception are just a few reasons why she can brilliantly master any given musical genre.
Judy says … “I love it all, if it’s a good song, it’s for me.”
Collins is also an established author with nine published books to her credit and has a brand new book in the works and on the way soon.
I had the rare pleasure of chatting with Judy Collins recently about her latest CD/DVD entitled Judy Collins Live in Ireland, the Greenwich Village days, rock and roll pals and so much more!
Here’s my recent interview with singer, songwriter and author JUDY COLLINS.
Ray Shasho: Hi Judy thank you for being on the call today. You’ve got quite an extensive tour beginning in Collingswood, New Jersey on March 22nd and you’ll be performing at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida on April 11th.
Judy Collins: “Yea, my life is a tour so I just keep connecting the dots. I just did a PBS show called Judy Collins Live in Ireland. I was just in Boston last night doing the pictures for it and it will be all over the country. It was a wonderful show.”
Ray Shasho: You actually performed at a castle in Ireland?
Judy Collins: “It was a beautiful place, Dromoland Castle in County Clare and right at the right place at the right time and I loved it. The CD/DVD will be out on March 18th.”
Ray Shasho: Judy what were the Greenwich Village days like for you?
Judy Collins: “Very exciting. There was a lot of turbulence going on in the country. All kinds of wonderful artists and I lived here in New York. I lived in the Village for a few years and that was incredible … The Village Gate, Gerde’s Folk City, The Bitter End, Gaslight Café, and The Fat Black Pussycat swarming with singers, songwriters, talent, and just wonderful times.”
Ray Shasho: Who were some of the artists that you hung out with in Greenwich Village back in those exciting days?
Judy Collins: “The Village was filled with people of course, but there was Shel Silverstein, Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Peter, Paul & Mary, Arlo Guthrie, Cisco Houston …they were all here! Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton … I sang a lot of Tom Paxton’s songs. It was just great, everybody came to the Village and a lot of us lived here.”
Ray Shasho: I always thought of your early musical styles as perhaps a prelude to Progressive Rock.
Judy Collins: “Yes it was. I did a lot of different kinds of music and made records that had a very folk rock feel. So yea, it was Progressive Rock I’m sure.”
Ray Shasho: I think “Chelsea Morning” was a good example. I hear similarities to Annie Haslam of Renaissance and also Sandy Denny of The Strawbs and Fairport Convention.
Judy Collins: “Yes indeed. Our orchestrations were unusual then, so I was on the Cutting Edge so to speak.”
Ray Shasho: Who were some of the rock bands that you spent time with in the 60’s? I know for a fact, Crosby, Stills & Nash … who else?
Judy Collins: “Guaranteed Crosby, Stills & Nash … I also spent a lot of time with The Doors and Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears, we were very good friends. I had a lot of fun getting to know them. In fact, Al Kooper is the one that called me in the middle of the night and put Joni Mitchell on and sang me “Both Sides Now” so that was a nice connection.”
Ray Shasho: “So Stephen Stills definitely wrote “Suite: Judy Blues Eyes” about you?
Judy Collins: “Sure was. He sang it to me in 1968 and then started recording it. It was very beautiful.”
Ray Shasho: I always liked how Stephen ended the song singing Spanish lyrics. I know he has Tampa roots but didn’t he spend time in various Latin American countries as well?
Judy Collins: “Yes, he had some South American life experience. Stephen and I are still friends after all these years … nice-nice.”
Ray Shasho: Judy, how important was it for you to score a hit with a song that you composed?
Judy Collins: “It wasn’t important to me. I didn’t write anything until Leonard Cohen asked me why I wasn’t writing anything. I didn’t have any excuse so I started writing. I just wrote a new song that is in the Irish show which is called “New Moon Over The Hudson” which seems to be taking off and people seem to like it a lot, and that makes me very happy. I wrote that three days before I went to Ireland in September last year. I’m always writing and have a lot of songs coming out.”
Ray Shasho: You’ve also had great success as an established author.
Judy Collins: “I’ve written nine books and have got another one coming along, but I can’t tell you what it’s about. You’ll just have to see when it comes out.”
Ray Shasho: What about plans musically … another studio album in the near future?
Judy Collins: “Always! I’m working on an album of duets with men singers. That’s just one of the things that I’m doing. Besides the Live in Ireland CD/DVD, there’s also a big collection from Cleopatra Records of all the songs that I’ve been writing and singing since about 1984-85, from a box-set of the most recent years. And there are many other things planned.”
Ray Shasho: You’ve sustained an amazing music career and fan base since your debut album … A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961. What do attribute your longevity to … especially with all the changes throughout the years in the music industry?
Judy Collins: “I like what I do, I’m passionate about what I do, and a good song is a good song. Media, methods and styles come and go, but if you love what you do … essentially it’s the first thing you want to think about … did I practice today, have I written in my journals, have I written any new songs, when’s the next show? That’s who I am and the way I’m built.”
Ray Shasho: I think the fact that you are open to sing various musical genres has a lot to do with your longevity as well …and just the fact that your voice can sing multiple genres.
Judy Collins: “I love it all, if it’s a good song, it’s for me.”
Ray Shasho: I think your rendition of “Send In The Clowns” is the best version of Stephen Sondheim’s composition, followed by Sinatra’s version in 1973. When did you first get the idea for recording the song?
Judy Collins: “I found it in 1972 and recorded it in ’73. It came out in 1974 and became a hit a couple of times in 1975 and ’77. It’s also something that continues to be played a lot.”
Ray Shasho: I don’t know how you can perform that song without shedding a few tears?
Judy Collins: “People say that. They find it very moving and I do too.”
Ray Shasho: Talk about the Judy Collins Wildflower Festival … is that an ongoing event?
Judy Collins: “Well, in a way, I did a CD/ DVD called the Wildflower Festival. I haven’t done festivals with the artists that are on the Wildflower Festival, but we did for PBS … Eric Anderson, Arlo Guthrie and Tom Rush. That was a great show.”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with Tom Rush back in November of 2012, he’s a great guy! Have you heard Tom’s “The Remember Song”?
Judy Collins: “Tom Rush is a wonderful artist, I’m crazy about him. In fact, “The Remember Song” is on Judy Collins Wildflower Festival. He sang it at Humphrey’s By the Bay In San Diego in 2003. That song has had millions of hits on You Tube. It’s a great song.”
“I also like when Tom sings “Galveston Flood” and “Panama Limited.”
Ray Shasho: Judy, you’re involved with so many important causes, is there one in particular you would like to talk about?
Judy Collins: “I’ve always done speaking engagements in the area of mental health … suicide prevention and alcoholism recovery. That’s what has remained steady for the past several years.”
Ray Shasho: Judy, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Judy Collins: “I’ve performed with just about everybody that I’ve wanted to including Johnny Cash. I think I’m more interested in what’s coming around the corner. I am having fun doing some shows with Don Mclean and that’s been very satisfying. I’m having a good time doing our shows.”
Ray Shasho: Judy, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us and continue to bring. We’ll see you at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on April 11th.
Judy Collins: “Thank you Ray.”
Judy Collins much anticipated release -Judy Collins Live in Ireland CD/DVD on Cleopatra Records is NOW available to purchase at amazon.com. -Recorded September 29th 2013 at Dromoland Castle for the PBS broadcast Live in Ireland.
DVD Track Listing: 1) Wild Mountain Thyme 2) Chelsea Morning 3) Grandaddy (featuring step dancer Emily Ellis) 4) New Moon Over The Hudson 5)Bird On A Wire 6) Cat’s In The Cradle 7) John Riley 8) She Moved Through The Fair (feat. Mary Black) 9) The Fire Plays (feat. Ari Hest) 10) How Are Things In Glocca Morra? 11) Danny Boy 12) Amazing Grace Bonus Tracks: Gypsy Rover, Barbara Allen, Innisfree Plus additional Interview Footage
CD Track Listing: 1)Wild Mountain Thyme 2)Chelsea Morning 3)Gypsy Rover 4)Grandaddy (featuring step dancer Emily Ellis)5) New Moon Over The Hudson 6)Cat’s In The Cradle 7) John Riley 8) She Moved Through The Fair (feat. Mary Black) 9) The Fire Plays (feat. Ari Hest) 10) Innisfree 11) Danny Boy
Judy Collins official website
Judy Collins on tour
Judy Collins on Facebook
Judy Collins on Twitter
Judy Collins on Myspace
Very special thanks to Billy James
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