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The Life, Times and Career of Judy Collins, a Grammy Award-Winning American Singer and Songwriter

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Loves to share her views and appreciation of different music genres from around the world.

Judy Collins began training under Antonia Brico from the age of 10 and by the age of 13 she was a piano prodigy. At that time, it seemed that her future career path was set. But as anyone knows, things can change as children grow older and that is what happened to Judy when she was introduced to folk music in her teens.

She was influenced by folk music as a teenager and also later on when she began to get established in her career. She listened to music from artists likes Jo Stafford, The Clancy Brothers, The Tarriers and Ewan MacColl.

It was Judy’s father that finally got her a guitar when he understood that this was the path that Judy wanted to pursue. Judy identified with folk music because she heard what her peers at the time were trying to express in their music.

Later on when Judy started writing her own compositions, folk music allowed her to express her thoughts and beliefs through her writing and Judy still expresses that in her music many years later. You just need to list to the song “Dreamer”, written about the immigration issue that arose during the Trump administration time in office to understand that.

Judy got married in 1958 at the age of 18, was divorced by 1965, and launched her music career in 1961 at the age 22 when she released her first album under Elektra Records. She battled an eating disorder for a number of years as well as alcoholism and she sadly lost her only child to suicide in 1992. Her second marriage in 1996 was to Louis Nelson whom she met in 1978. They currently reside in New York.

Over the course of her career she has performed with many artists and has helped launch the careers of other artists such as Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

She is a performer, an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention, a filmmaker, the head of Wildflower Records, a mentor to other musicians and an author.

Judy Collins, a famous folk artist known throughout the world performing in concert.

Judy Collins, a famous folk artist known throughout the world performing in concert.

In 1966, she broadens her talent even further by releasing an album “Within My Life” which contained many of her own original recordings.

Playlist of All the Song Mentioned in This Article

  • Judy Collins Songs - YouTube
    This playlist includes the list of songs mentioned in this article. There are songs included here that were written by Judy Collins, songs about Judy Collins like "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes Demo...

Early Years

Judith Marjorie Collins was born to Charlie Collins and Marjorie Byrd (Collins, Hall) on May 1st 1939. Judy’s parents got married in 1937 but unfortunately Charlie Collins, the son of an Irish emigrant died in 1968 just before Judy turned thirty. In 1971, Marjorie Collins Hall got remarried to Robert Hall and they remained married until her death in 2010 at the age of 94.

Her mom had five children while married to Charlie Collins, Judy, Michael, David, Denver John, and Holly Anne. Her parents lived in Seattle, Washington for the first nine year of Judy’s life and then they decided to move the family to Denver Colorado in 1949. Judy lived in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and son until Taylor decided to move the family to Connecticut for a job opportunity in the early 60’s.

Her dad blinded at a young age, sung and played the piano and ended up working as a radio presenter in a Caliradio station KFI. Throughout his life he also struggled with alcoholism.

Judy’s mother worked in the retail and insurance sector and was also a guide at the Denver Art Museum. Judy’s stepdad Robert hall worked as an administrator in a Colorado school and was a Naval veteran of WW11

Relationships and Children

Judy married Peter Taylor in 1958 at the age of 19 and they went on to have one child during their marriage, Clarke C Taylor. He was born in 1958 but unfortunately in 1992 Clarke died by suicide at the age of 33. He battled substance abuse and depression during his short life.

In 2007, she published a book titled "The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy". When her son died, Judy also became involved with anti-suicide groups and this then lead to her publishing another book in 2017, titled “Sanity and Grace”.

Career During Her Marriage

While Judy’s husband Peter was studying in college, Judy supported the family by singing in bars and clubs. After Peter graduated from college the family moved to Connecticut where Peter got a job teaching English literature at the University of Connecticut.

Divorce From Her First Husband

While Peter was working in academia. Judy became interested in the folk scene in Greenwich Village, New York City. Judy had always loved music and performing and it was here that she met other artists with similar interests to herself.

In 1962, she had a short affair with Walter Raim which was a factor in the breakdown of her marriage to Peter Taylor. Peter got custody of their son who was four year old at the time. It wouldn’t be until 1967 that Judy would be awarded custody of him.

Other Relationships

After her divorce she dated for a while and she was in a relationship in 1969 with English rock journalist Michael Thomas. The also dated the actor, Stacy Keach and they were together for a period of time in the 1970's.

She also had a relationship with Stephen Stills for nearly two years. At the time that they met, he was already a fan of Judy and knew who she was. Judy herself had never heard of him or knew who he was. Stills was in the band Buffalo Springfield and they had just had a hit single in the charts. Stills would later go on to become better known for his role in Crosby, Stills & Nash. After two years their long distance relationship fell apart.

In Judy's 2019 album, "Winter Stories", she collaborated with Norwegian singer-songwriter Jonas Fjeld and North Carolina bluegrass revivalists, Chatham County Line. This album was recognized as some of her greatest work.

Relationships, Music and Breakup From Stephen Stills

In 1968 Stephen Stills had written a demo album with songs dedicated to Judy. Those songs were "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Helplessly Hoping and Judy". It wasn’t until 2007 when the lost unedited demo was found that it was released by Rhino Records.

In 1974 Judy wrote a song connected to her breakup with Stephen Stills titled, "Houses".

In 1971 Stills also recorded a song titled, “So Begins the Task”, which allegedly addressed rejected love. Judy herself also recorded her version of "So Begins the Task" a year later.

A few years later they reconnected as friends and to this day they still remain good friends and have even toured together. The even collaborated and released an album titled, "Everybody Knows" in 2017. The album contained many of their own songs as well as recordings of songs by other artists like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Second Marriage

Her second marriage took place on April 16, 1996 to Louis Nelson who she met at a fund-raiser in 1978 for The Equal Rights Amendment. He is an architect who helped designed the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. They currently reside in Manhattan.

Overview of Judy Collins Music Career

  • When Judy was a teenager she started listening to folk music from the likes of The Clancy Brothers, Jo Stafford and Barbara Allen. She was also influenced by artists like Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie.
  • In 1961 Judy Collins was signed to Eletkra Records and she remained signed to them until 1999 when she created her own label, Wildflower Records.
  • She released her first album “A Maid of Constant Sorry” at the age of 22. When she started out in her career, she felt very passionate about covering traditional songs and protest songs by other artists. She also recorded works written by poets, traditional and contemporary artists in the beginning of her career and also as she became established.
  • Some of the songs that Judy covered were songs from artists who were friends as well as those not yet established. She covered Leonard Cohen “Suzanne“, Tom Paxton “Last Thing on My Mind”, Phil Ochs “In The Heat of The Summer”, and later Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”. She also covered Bob Dylan’s song “Mr Tambourine Man”.
  • Around 1967 Judy released her seventh album titled “Wildflower”, an album that only contained songs written by Judy, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Jacques Brel. Two songs on this album “Both Sides Now” written by Joni Mitchell and “Since You Asked” inspired by Leonard Cohen but written by Collins were both hits. The album was arranged by Joshua Rifkin, who also founded the Bach Ensemble in 1978 and it was produced by Mark Abramson.
  • Her song “Albatross,” is about her friendship with Joni Mitchell and her song “Morocco” is about her friendship with Leonard Cohen.
  • In 1966, she released her album “Within My Life”. This album veered away from what she traditionally released which were songs that were mostly guitar based folk song. In this album she covered song by other artist like Kurt Wild and The Beatles and many other contemporary artists.
  • In her 2010 album ”Paradise” Judy and Stephen Stills, her ex-boyfriend covered Tom Paxton’s song, ”Last Thing on My Mind”.
  • Two of Judy’s song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes" and "Albatross" were featured in the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses
  • Judy has also produced many of her own albums and is known for being able to play the piano, the guitar and the keyboards.
  • In 1970 her album, “In My Life” which was released in 1966 was certified gold after it sold over 500,000 copies. Her follow up album "Wildflowers" released in 1967 was also certified gold in 1969. This was the second album of Judy’s to sell over 500,000 copies. Her next album “Both Sides Now”, released in 1969 was her third album to be certified gold. The fourth album that would be certified gold in 1971 was her album, “Whales and Nightingales” which was released in 1970.

Judy Collins's Album Catalogue 1960 - 1969

Source: www.judycollins.com

AlbumsRelease Date

A Maid of Constant Sorrow

1961

Golden Apples of the Sun

1962

Judy Collins 3

1963

The Judy Collins Concert

1964

Fifth Album

1965

In My Life

1966

Wildflowers

1967

We Know Where Time Goes

1968

Recollections

1969

In 2018 she released a song called "Dreamers" which was inspired by immigrants.

Judy Collins's Album Catalogue 1970 - 1979

Source: www.judycollins.com

AlbumsRelease Date

Whales and Nightingales

1970

Living

1971

Both Sides Now

1972

Colours of the Day

1973

True Stores and Other Dreams

1974

Judith

1975

Bread and Roses

1976

So Early in the Spring

1977

Hard Times for Lovers

1978

1979

Judy Collins's Album Catalogue 1980 - 1989

Source: www.judycollins.com

AlbumsRelease Date

Running for My Life

1980

Time of Our Lives

1982

Home Again

1984

Amazing Grace

1985

Trust Your Heart

1987

Sanity and Grace

1989

Judy Collins signing books in Washington D.C. in 1995.

Judy Collins signing books in Washington D.C. in 1995.

Judy Collins's Album Catalogue 1990 - 1999

Source: www.judycollins.com

AlbumsRelease Date

Fires of Eden

1990

Baby's Morning Time

1990

Baby's Bed Time

1990

Wind Beneath My Wings

1992

Judy Sings Dylan, Just Like a Woman

1993

Come Rejoice! A Judy Collin's Christmas Special

1994

Voice

1995

Live at Newport

1996

Forever: An Anthology

1997

Christmas at the Baltimore Estate

1997

Both Sides Now

1998

Classic Broadway

1999

Judy Collins's Album Catalogue 2000 - 2009

Source: www.judycollins.com

AlbumsRelease Date

Live at Wolf Trap

2000

Classic Folk

2000

All on a Wintry Night

2000

The Very Best of Judy Collins

2001

Wildflower Festival ft Judy & Friends

2003

Judy Collins Sings Leonard Cohen: Democracy

2004

Portrait of An American Girl

2005

Judy Collins Sings Lennon & McCarthney

2007

Judy Collins's Album Catalogue 2010 - Now

Source: www.judycollins.com

AlbumsRelease Date

Paradise

2010

Bohemian

2011

Live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

2012

Live in Ireland

2014

Strangers Again

2015

Silver Skies Blue ft Ari Hest

2016

A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim

2017

Everybody Knows ft Stephen Stills

2017

Winter Stories ft Jonas Fjed

2019

Judy Collins & The Global Virtual Choir - Amazing Grace

10 Facts About Addictions and Health Issues That Judy Collins Experienced

  1. At the age of four, Judy complained of having had a sugar addiction.
  2. At the age of eleven, she was diagnosed with polio and spent two months alone isolated in a hospital.
  3. At the age of fourteen, a year after she had made her debut, she attempted suicide by taking an overdose of aspirin.
  4. In the mist of her divorce in her twenties she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent some months in a sanatorium recovering from it.
  5. She has also admitted that she suffered from an eating disorder in the 1970’s after she quit smoking. She didn’t conquer her bulimia battle till the early 80’s.
  6. Her father also battled alcoholism during her childhood and she feels that this as well as her early success was some of the reasons she herself had issue with alcoholism and bulimia in her twenties.
  7. She was also a heavy drinker in the early days of her career and partook in lots of partying with other artists. This lead to her having surgery for a hemangioma node on her vocal cords mainly caused by her drinking during that time period.
  8. She finally managed to conquer her alcohol additions in 1978 and she has managed to remain sober to this day.
  9. To deal with her bulimia and eating disorder she follows a program called GreySheeters Anonymous which is a community where members support each other to help fellow members recover from their eating disorder.
  10. In 2017, Judy wrote a book titled ‘Judy Collins, Cravings: How I Conquered Food”. She stays away from foods that she is allergic to but she also believe in following a healthy balanced diet.

Recognition and Awards

  • In 1967 Joni Mitchell collaborated with Judy on her album "Wildflower". The song "Both Sides Now” won Judy a Grammy award and it also peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968.
  • Judy’s rendition of "Amazing Grace", released in 1971 peaked at No.15 in the Billboard Hot 100 and her rendition of the song, "Send In The Clowns" released in 1977 managed to peak at No.19 in the Billboard Hot 100 the same year.
  • In 1974, she covered the song “Send in the Clowns”, a song written by Stephen Sondheim. The song was nominated for Song of the Year in the 18th Annual Grammy Awards of 1975 but Judy didn't win on the night.
  • In 1974, Jill Godmilov and Judy Collins produced and co-directed a documentary about Judy’s mentor, symphony conductor Antonia Brico, titled "Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman". Times magazine named it one of the top ten films of the year. The documentary also received a nomination at the Academy Award for Best Documentary. It did not however win the academy award in 1975. The Academy Award instead went to Peter Davis and Bert Schneider for their documentary feature, “Hearts and Minds”.
  • In 1986, Judy was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.
  • In 2002, Judy received an honorary degree from the Colleges at Commencement. She was also asked to deliver the Baccalaureate address to the seniors and their families that same year in the Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
  • In 2016, her 1970 version of “Amazing Grace” was added to the National Registry.
  • In 2017, she was the recipient of the Beatrice Stern Media Award by the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.

Activist Judy Collins and Her Role in Helping Others

  • In the early 1960’s Judy along with other folk singers like Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, and many others were just some of the folk artists who used their music to spread anti-war messages against the activities in the Vietnam War.
  • She was a founding member of the Yippie movement in 1968 and was a witness at the trial of the Chicago Seven where she attempted to sing “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” while been cross examined on the witness stand.
  • In 1964 she became involved in the Mississippi Summer Project which was an initiative by white volunteers and African Americans to increase the number of African American voters in Mississippi. During that time African Americans were being intimidated and discriminated against registering. The result of this rally was the introduction of The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • In 1984 Judy wrote an anti-gun song titled "Shoot First".
  • In Judy’s 1994 album, “Come Rejoice! A Judy Collins Christmas”, there is a song titled “Song for Sarajevo”. Judy wrote this song because she was influenced by the 1994 Harper Collins book “Dream of Peace: Images of War by Children of Former Yugoslavia”. The book was poignant because it contained pictures and letters from children who lived in Sarajevo. The proceeds of the song and the music video were donated by Judy to UNICEF.
  • In 1995 Judy was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for her role in raising awareness of issues around the World. In the same year she was also presented with the Danny Kaye Memorial Award by the US Fund for UNICEF.
  • In her 1997 album “Forever: An Anthology”, the song “Walls” is a song dedicate to the Korean War veterans.
  • Her 2010 album, "Paradise" has a song titled "Kingdom Come", which Judy wrote nine months after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
  • In 2018, she released a song titled “Dreamer”. This song was in response to the activities of the Trump administration at the time who were separating children from their parents. These families were fleeing their homeland and hoping to immigrate to the United States for a better life.
  • In 1964, Judy Collins played in New York's Town Hall which is a venue that was opened in 1921 by suffragists to support and encourage people to address the important issues that were facing society during that time. Judy herself was facing some health as well as personal issues during the time of her performance. The American people had witnessed John F Kennedy’s assassinated, people were living through the protests against The Vietnam War and the Mississippi Summer Project was occurring. In 2021, Judy recreated her 1964 New York's Town Hall performance with some changes to the set. The work of The Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA) an organization who is responding to the Syrian refugee crisis was highlighted during this performance.

Books Written, Co-Written or About Judy Collins

Source: Amazon.com

Book TitleRelease DatePublisher

Judy Collins Song Book

September 1969

Penguin Publishing Group

Trust Your Heart : An Autobiography

November 1987

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Judy Collins Anthology

October 1998

Omnibus Press

Singing Lessons

July 1999

Pocket Books

My Father

June 1997

Little Brown & Company

Morning, Noon, and Night : Living the Creative Life

June 2005

Penguin Publishing Group

Sanity and Grace : A Journey of Suicide, Survival, and Strength

April 2006

Penguin Publishing Group

Shameless

November 2007

Pocket Books

The Seven T's : Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy

May 2007

Penguin Publishing Group

Singing Lessons: a Memoir of Love, Loss, Hope and Healing

November 2007

Pocket Books

Sweet Judy Blue Eyes : My Life in Music

October 2012

Crown/Archetype

Cravings : How I Conquered Food

January 2018

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

In 1999, Judy Collins started her own independent record label, Wildflower Records.

Judy Collins Six Grammy Nominations and One Wins

  1. Judy was nominated six times for a Grammy. Her first time was in 1963 when her album “Judy Collins #3” was nominated for Best Folk Recording. The Grammy that year went to Peter, Paul and Mary for “Blowin' In The Wind”.
  2. In 1967 her song “In My Life” was nominated for Best Folk Performance. The winner that year was John Hartford for his song “Gentle On My Mind”.
  3. In the 1968 Grammy Awards she was nominated in the category Best Folk Performance. Judy won the Grammy that year for the song ”Both Sides Now” written by Joni Mitchell.
  4. In 1969 “Birds On A Wire” was nominated for Best Folk Performance but that year the Grammy went to Joni Mitchell for her song “Clouds”.
  5. In 1975, Judy covered the song “Send In The Clowns” written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music. This song was nominated in the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and on the night Janis Ian won for her song “At Seventeen”.
  6. In 2016 Judy’s album “Silver Skies Blue” featuring Ari Hest was nominated for a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Judy didn’t win the Grammys that year and instead it went to Sarah Jarosz for her album “Undercurrent”.

Conclusion

Judy Collins is still performing and she loves to write her own songs as well as cover songs from other artists. She did this in 1966 on her album, "Within My Life” when she covered The Beatles songs. In 2015, she covered songs like “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen and “Races” a song by Glen Hansard.

In February 2021 she did a live show streamed from New York’s Town Hall that was recorded and released as a live album. The concert was being touted as A Return to Her Legendary 1964 Show. In this show she changed the playlist somewhat but did include Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and "Both Sides, Now” by Joni Mitchell.

Judy Collins is one of those artists that will still be remembered for her talent, her music and her diversification in the years to come. She uses her music to influence change in people and she is an activist who sought to help those who needed it. She is one of those iconic artists that has many albums in her repertoire and a lot of the songs that she has written and covered will resonate with many people.

Sources

For Judy Collins, Marriage Is a Song of Many Verses, (2018), The New York Times

Judy Collins has looked at life from both sides and beaten her demons (2011), The Belfast Telegraph

Legendary Singer Judy Collins Talks About Her Decades-Long Eating Disorder: 'I'm On the Other Side of This Monster (2017), People Magazine

Judy Collins Recalls Her Early Struggles (2015), The Wall Street Journal

Marjorie Collins Hall, mother of singer Judy Collins; at 94 (2010), Denver Post

Judy Collin’s Mom Death, Legacy.com

Judy Collins: El Troubadour

JudyCollins.com

Judy Collins, Colorado Women's Hall of Fame (2006)

Judy Collins and Stephen Stills Bring Their National Tour to Springfield

For Judy Collins, Marriage Is a Song of Many Verses, (2018), The New York Times

How singer Judy Collins conquered her eating disorder (2017), USA Today

Rock Music at Red Rock (2018) Richie Unterberger

The songs that matter most to Judy Collins from her 60-year career (2020), The Irish Examiner

The Rebel Angels (2008) Vanity Fair

Judy Collins to Deliver Baccalaureate Address (2002), Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Folk activist Judy Collins revisits her first live album (2021), AP News

Grammy Artist Results: Judy Collins

“Amazing Grace”—Judy Collins (1970), Essay by Cary O’Dell

Winners & Nominees (1975), Oscars

Chart History, Judy Collins Billboard Music

Judy Collins on breaking barriers of race and gender (2014), CBS News

Unicef Judy Collins

Testimony of Judy Collins (1968) Transcripts of the Chicago Seven Trial

Billboard Top 100: Judy Collins


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Sp Greaney

Comments

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on May 18, 2021:

@MG Singh emge, thank you. Yes, it's great to see artists like this still performing and enjoying themselves. She also still seems to have an amazing voice.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 17, 2021:

Sangre, very interesting article considering that the lady is 82 now and has been singing for 60 years. She is almost a legend.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on May 16, 2021:

@Pamela Oglesby, yes, she seemef to have had some issues from her childhood. They seemed to have escalated once she started her career. But she managed to recover and is doing well today.

@Brenda Arledge, yes it took some time. But the more I researched her, the more interesting I found her. There is so much information out there about her so trying to condense it all was a challenge.

@Liz Westwood, thank you so much. I was trying to share as much about her as I could. Editing was a challenging.

@Linda Crampton, thanks Linda. She has definitely acheived a lot in her lifetime and it seems that she still plans to continue performing.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 16, 2021:

Thank you for sharing so many facts about Judy Collins. I enjoy the songs that I’ve heard her sing. It was interesting to learn more about her.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 16, 2021:

This is an interesting and informative biographical article.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 16, 2021:

Great article. You did quite a fantastic job and put alot of work into this one.

Her life seems like it had many ups and downs but yet she is still going.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 16, 2021:

This is a very interesting article about Judy Collins. I like here singing, bit I had no idea she did so much good, yet she had so many problems. The eating and drinking problems had to be tough. Thank you sharing so much information, Sp.

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