Judy Collins has been a singer, songwriter and musician for over fifty years. Her career spans folk music to blues, jazz standards to pop lyrics all of which have helped establish her as one of the most distinguished female artists in American history.
Judy Collins is an American singer-songwriter who has released over 30 albums and written songs for other artists. “What songs did Judy Collins write?” is a question that many people ask. Read more in detail here: what songs did judy collins write?.
Of the artists who enjoyed success in the folk music boom of the early ’60s, very few have had a career as long and varied as Judy Collins, in large part because she’s displayed a stylistic range matched by few of her peers. While Collins is a gifted songwriter who penned a few of her best songs, including “Since You Asked,” “My Father,” and “Secret Gardens,” it’s her talent and versatility as an interpretive vocalist that has brought her lasting success. Collins’ strong, clear voice has been adaptable to everything from Appalachian folk (1961’s A Maid of Constant Sorrow), pop-inflected folk-rock (her hit cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” from 1967’s Wildflowers), show tunes (“Send in the Clowns” from 1975’s Judith), artful a cappella (“Amazing Grace” and “Farewell to Tarwathie” from 1970’s Whales & Nightingales), ambitious narrative pieces (“Marat/Sade” from 1966’s In My Life, “Che” from 1973’s True Stories & Other Dreams), and the work of contemporary songwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Jacques Brel. The unifying factors of Collins’ work have always been the maturity and depth in her performances and a commitment to quality songwriting, and she’s upheld her high standards through a career that has spanned six decades.
On May 1, 1939, Judith Marjorie Collins was born in Seattle. Her father, Charles Thompson Collins, was a performer, radio broadcaster, and pianist, and she was the eldest of five children. Her family moved from Seattle to Denver, Colorado, when she was ten years old. Collins had taken up piano lessons from Antonia Brico, a pioneering classical musician who was one of the first women to direct a large symphony orchestra. Collins made her public debut at the age of 13 with a performance of Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos, which Brico thought she had the potential to become a well-known professional pianist. Collins, however, got intrigued with folk music after listening to the songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, much to Brico’s displeasure, and gave up her piano lessons to concentrate on learning the guitar. (In 1974, Collins produced and co-directed Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman, a documentary on Brico that was nominated for an Academy Award.)
Collins began performing folk music in Denver and Boulder bars by the time she graduated from high school. The 18-year-old married Peter Taylor in 1958 and gave birth to Clark Taylor less than a year later. Collins provided for her family by working at a tavern in Boulder, where she made $100 per week and had unlimited pizza and beer. Collins became a mainstay on the local folk music scene, building a reputation for herself on the East Coast, when Taylor obtained a teaching post at the University of Connecticut. Collins was recruited by Elektra Records, a forward-thinking company that was having success with numerous current folk performers, after making frequent performances in New York City. Elektra signed a contract with Collins, and her first album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, was published in 1961.
Judy Collins 3 featured a version of Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (To Everything There Is a Season) arranged by Roger McGuinn, two years before McGuinn would turn the song into a hit single with the Byrds. A Maid of Constant Sorrow and its follow-up, 1962’s Golden Apples of the Sun, were dominated by traditional folk material, but for Judy Collins 3, she began including the work of current singers and Collins released a live album in 1964, followed the next year by Fifth Album, which was filled with songs from the new school of original and often topical songwriters who were dominating the folk scene, including Dylan, Phil Ochs, Gordon Lightfoot, Richard Fariña, and Eric Andersen. Collins strayed from the strict confines of folk on 1966’s In My Life, which featured sophisticated production and arrangements from Joshua Rifkin, as well as narrative songs from theater pieces (“Pirate Jenny” and “Marat/Sade”), and two tracks from Leonard Cohen, a Canadian poet and novelist Collins had befriended. (It would be a year before Cohen’s first album was released.) Collins was going through personal changes at the time, as she and Taylor had divorced in 1965.
1967’s Wildflowers marked a turning point for Collins. Once again arranged by Rifkin (with Mark Abramson producing), the album featured three songs from Cohen, two from the then-little-known Joni Mitchell, and three compositions from Collins herself, marking the first time she had recorded her own material. One of the Joni Mitchell songs, “Both Sides Now,” became a Top Ten hit, and helped Wildflowers make a significant dent in the pop charts, winning Collins her first gold record. 1968’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes found Collins dipping her toes into country-rock on “Someday Soon” and “First Boy I Loved,” and featured guitar work from Stephen Stills, who would be Collins’ collaborator and sometimes romantic partner over the next few years. (She was the inspiration for the Crosby, Stills & Nash classic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”) 1970’s Whales & Nightingales scored two hits with truly unusual material — an a cappella version of the popular spiritual “Amazing Grace” with Collins accompanied by a choir and an interpretation of the classic whaling ballad “Farewell to Tarwathie” that paired her vocals with recordings of the sounds of humpback whales.
Collins released her second live album, Living, in 1971, and a year later, the collection Colors of the Day: The Best of Judy Collins. True Stories and Other Dreams, released in 1973, found her in a reflective mood, including an original song about a friend who committed suicide (“Song for Martin”) and another about Che Guevara’s life (“Che”). Collins collaborated with producer Arif Mardin on the 1975 album Judith, which had a refined, sophisticated sound. Judith yielded a big smash single with her melancholy rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” and it would go platinum.
As Collins stepped up to a higher level of stardom, the longtime activist put political themes at the forefront of 1976’s Bread & Roses. Following the release of the album, Collins underwent treatment for damaged vocal cords, and after years of struggling with alcoholism, she sought medical help to give up drinking. In 1978, while at a fundraising event for the Equal Rights Amendment, she met Louis Nelson, an artist and designer. He would soon become her partner, and in 1996, they married.
Collins returned to music in 1979 with Hard Times for Lovers, a pop-oriented album in the manner of Judith; she had planned for the cover to contain a completely nude shot of herself by photographer Francesco Scavullo, but Elektra chose a discreetly cropped version instead. Running for My Life and Time of Our Lives, both released in 1980, were well-crafted exercises in adult pop and soft rock, but Collins’ sales began to fall as tastes evolved. Home Again, released in 1984, saw her branch out musically, with a synth-based rendition of Yaz’s “Only You” and a duet with country musician T.G. Sheppard on the title track. While the song “Home Again” was a small success, the album was not, and Collins and Elektra parted ways after 23 years.
Collins wasted little time, flying to England and signing a one-time agreement with Telstar Records to record Amazing Grace in 1985, in which she recut some of her best-known songs and numbers with an inspirational bent, accompanied by an orchestra and choir. Collins joined with the independent Gold Castle label in 1987, and her debut album for them, Trust Your Heart, included seven songs from Amazing Grace as well as three new ones. In 1987, she published her debut book, Trust Your Heart, which was also a memoir.
In 1989, Collins released two albums: Sanity and Grace, a live collection, and Innervoices, a duet with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. With the release of Fires of Eden, her first (and final) album for Columbia the following year, she was back in the major-label game. Baby’s Morningtime and Baby’s Bedtime, two children’s CDs, were released in 1990. Collins was devastated when her son Clark committed himself in 1992; he, like his mother, battled with alcoholism and was claimed to have fallen into a deep melancholy after resuming drinking. Collins’ second album, Judy Collins Sings Dylan: Just Like a Woman, was a collection of Bob Dylan covers that was both personal and familiar to her. The record was a financial success when it was released in 1993, and it reassured listeners that she was still active and in great voice. Collins released her debut Christmas CD, Come Rejoice!, in 1994. Christmas with Judy Collins. It would be the first in a series, with further holiday releases in 1997 (Christmas at the Biltmore Estate), 2000 (All on a Wintry Night), and 2003 (Christmas at the Biltmore Estate) (Christmas).
Collins’ next endeavor united her passions for music and literature. She published Shameless, a book set in the music industry, in 1995, and accompanied it with an album of the same name that served as a de facto “soundtrack,” comprising songs she created for the fictional singers in the plot. Collins’ third book, Singing Lessons: A Memoir of Love, Loss, Hope, and Healing, was released in 1998 and focused on her battles with alcoholism, melancholy, and the emotional trauma of her son’s death. Classic Broadway, released in 1999, was a compilation of historic show songs, while Live at Wolf Trap, released the same year, was Collins’ first release on her own label, Wildflower Records. Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival, and Strength, her fourth book, was released in 2003, and it detailed her struggles with depression and self-harm in the aftermath of her son’s death. Her mourning journey would be chronicled in another book, The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy, published in 2007.
Collins had a busy pace with Wildflower Records, releasing multiple live albums and reissues as well as new work including Portrait of an American Girl in 2005, Bohemian in 2008, and Paradise in 2010, all of which centered on her ongoing talent as an interpretative singer. Collins released another biography in 2011, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music, which focused on her work as a musician. Collins’ 2015 album Strangers Again includes duets with Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Jeff Bridges, and Glen Hansard, as well as tributes to some of her favorite artists and performers. Collins and Ari Hest reunited for a complete album in 2016, Silver Skies Blue, which contained a single with the singer and songwriter Ari Hest.
With 2017’s A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim, Collins returned to the work of the lyricist who gave her “Send in the Clowns,” and the same year, she and her old friend Stephen Stills collaborated on an album, Everybody Knows. Collins had a busy year; in addition to the two albums, she spoke up about her challenging connection with food and her years of suffering with eating disorders in another book, Cravings: How I Conquered Food. Collins collaborated with Norwegian vocalist Jonas Fjeld and North Carolina country-folk trio Chatham County Line on the album Winter Stories, which was published in 2019.
Judy Collins was born on January 19th, 1939 in New York City. Judy is a singer-songwriter and actress who has been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards and has won two Academy Awards. Her songs have been covered by many artists including Bob Dylan and Lenny Kravitz. Reference: judy collins siblings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Judy Collins biggest hit?
A: Both Sides Now
Has Judy Collins had a stroke?
How rich is Judy Collins?
A: Judy Collins is worth $2.6 billion dollars in net worth as of 2018.
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