Judy Collins

Greatly Appreciated


Judy Collins  (born May 1, 1939) is an American singer and songwriter known for her eclectic tastes in the material she records (which has included folk, show tunes, pop, rock and roll, and standards) and for her social activism.  Collins’ debut album A Maid of Constant Sorrow was released in 1961, but it was her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now”, released on her 1967 album Wildflowers, that gave Collins international prominence.  Collins experienced the biggest success of her career with her cover of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from her best selling 1975 album Judith.  The single charted on the Pop Singles chart in 1975, and then again in 1977, spending 27 nonconsecutive weeks on the chart, and earned Collins a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.  (More from Wikipedia)

The first Bob Dylan album, Bob Dylan was released with great fanfare by Columbia Records in March 1962; it is a relatively conventional folk album that is not unlike those that Joan BaezJudy Collins, and Peter, Paul and Mary were recording at the time, with just two original songs.  The album was produced by John H. Hammond, the legendary talent scout who signed Bob Dylan to Columbia.  Though excellent in every way – for instance, the album includes “Man of Constant Sorrow”, the song (as performed by the Soggy Bottom Boys, with George Clooney on lead vocals) that was made famous in the 2000 Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou – Bob Dylan sold just 5,000 copies initially; and Columbia Records executives began grumbling about Dylan’s being “Hammond’s folly”. 


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Van Dyke Parks is a native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi and was a musical prodigy.  He studied the clarinet and also did some work as a child actor; while in his teens, Parks appeared in Grace Kelly’s final film, The Swan (1958).  After graduating from college, he made some recordings for MGM Records in 1964 that included “Come to the Sunshine”; the touring band that he put together included a young Stephen Stills.  Primarily though, he worked behind the scenes, playing as a session musician with Sonny and Cher (before they even took that name) and Paul Revere and the Raiders under producer Terry Melcher.  His other early credits include playing Hammond Organ on the Byrds Fifth Dimension album and also keyboards for Judy Collins, plus arranging songs for Tim Buckley


(June 2013/2)


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In the early years, most women only sang; those who also played a musical instrument tended to be folksingers, like Joan Baez and Judy Collins.  Later on, both Baez and Collins moved more toward rock, and they have each recorded numerous amazing albums.  Joni Mitchell, who wrote Judy Collins’ early hit song Both Sides Now, stretched herself even further; one remarkable album that I own is her 1979 album, Mingus that was recorded with jazz legend Charles Mingus shortly before his death. 


(October 2013)


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After moving to Sheraton, WyomingCris Williamson began performing on a local radio station.  Three listeners who were impressed with her remarkable talent spearheaded the formation of a small record company, Avanti Records that released her first album in 1964, The Artistry of Cris Williamson when she was just 16.  After all 500 copies were sold out, two more albums followed, A Step at a Time (1965) and The World Around Cris Williamson (1966).  Her full-fledged debut album, Cris Williamson was released on Ampex Records in 1971; her vocal stylings were so similar to those of Judy Collins that Cris was sometimes called “Judy Jr.”.  After Cris Williamson acknowledged that she was a lesbian, however, she was quickly relegated to the sidelines. 


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There is a strong feminist stance in women’s music, however; and that was largely absent from the music scene in the mid-1970’sHelen Reddy’sI Am Woman” (1972) notwithstanding.  Besides her own fine compositions, Meg Christian reinterprets a Rolf Kempf song, “Hello Hooray” as a feminist anthem, with some new lyrics that she added.  The song had been included on one of Judy Collins’ best albums, Who Knows Where the Time Goes (1968). 


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In a sense, Is That All There Is? is a grimmer retelling of the Joni Mitchell song Both Sides Now that Judy Collins released as a Top 10 hit the previous year; it had appeared on Collins1967 album, Wildflowers.  For all I know, that could have been the genesis of the song.  The first recorded version, by New York disc jockey Dan Daniel was released in March 1968.  


(January 2014)


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And Joan Baez was there beginning in 1960 when the folk music revival was in its heyday; and she wasn’t political at all in the beginning.  Folk music has always been fairly gender-balanced – besides JoanJudy Collins and Joni Mitchell were leading lights who went on to have long careers.  The folk groups often had at least one woman – there was Mary Travers in Peter, Paul and Mary, and Ronnie Gilbert in the Weavers


(February 2014)


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Crosby, Stills, Nash and/or Young have released any number of cultural and counter-cultural touchstones over the years, such as “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (written about Judy Collins)


(April 2014)


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Sandy Denny was invited to join the Strawbs, and they recorded an album together in 1967 that was ultimately released in 1972 as All Our Own Work, under the name Sandy Denny and the Strawbs


The album includes an early version of one of Sandy Denny’s best-known songs, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”; Denny later recorded “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” with Fairport Convention when she became their lead singer in mid-1968.  Judy Collins heard a demo of the song and decided to include it as the title song of one of her best albums, Who Knows Where the Time Goes.  “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” was also released by Collins as the B-side of her #8 hit single, Both Sides Now (written by Joni Mitchell).  I remember raising eyebrows with a friend ages ago; she seemed surprised that I was familiar with Who Knows Where the Time Goes, and honestly, at that time I might only have seen the Judy Collins album rather than actually having heard the song. 


(July 2014)


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On the first LP by Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter, Paul and Mary (1962), Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey are said to have written “Sorrow” (better known by its full name “Man of Constant Sorrow” or “Maid of Constant Sorrow” and dating from 1913, both Bob Dylan and Judy Collins recorded it in the same time period, and “Man of Constant Sorrow” was also prominently featured in the 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou). 
(February 2015)
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After I ordered one of Penelope Houston’s albums, The Pale Green Girl, I was struck by how strong the music was, how of a piece it was with the Avengers material.  Even though the guitars are muted, calling her solo albums “folk music”, as many rock critics do, does her a disservice if you ask me; she is more PJ Harvey than Judy Collins.  I wrote her a note and told her so, I think when I ordered The American in Me.  She thanked me in a short note and then wrote:  “I guess you can take the girl out of the punk band, but you can’t take the punk band out of the girl.”  She signed it “P”, and put a star at the top.  That handwritten note from Penelope Houston made with a Sharpie is one of the items that I miss most from what we lost in Hurricane Katrina
'(March 2017)
Last edited: March 22, 2021