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Singing Life
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Judy Collins

      . . .singer/songwriter. Judy Collins is known around the world. Her lyrics helped define America‚s social movements of the 1960s and her career has spanned the intervening decades. Ms. Collins has released more than 30 albums, has had numerous Top Ten hits, Grammy nominations and gold and platinum selling albums. In 2000, Ms. Collins created her own record label, Wildflower Records. The flagship release, „Judy Collins Live At Wolf Trap,š celebrated Ms. Collins‚ 21st performance at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Excerpts3:19 secs
[This Program was recorded November 17, 2000 in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

      Who knows where the time goes? The question is more than just the title of one of singer/songwriter Judy Collins‚ signature pieces. It speaks to the essence of music for her. Since we don‚t have a way to harness time except with relationships and experiences we value, Judy Collins believes listening to music is one of the experiences which renders the timeless. That timelessness, she believes, is the source of music‚s magic.

      Music is nothing short of amazing, says this songmistress whose voice is also virtually synonymous with„Amazing Graceš and dozens of other sings which span more than four decades. In addition to continuing to sing for sold-out concerts, she generates blockbuster ratings on fundraising specials for PBS. A new venue for her is the Internet, where interactions with fans on her website remind Ms. Collins of the coffeehouses of her youth, with the ability to sell records on the side.

      Music is central to who and what Judy Collins is. Her songs and singing have both helped shape and reflect a world of private and public sorrows and joys. Judy Collins is a classically trained pianist-turned-singer/writer whose music has been integral to America‚s mass movements for peace and justice. If there is a theme to her music, it is the enigma of life‚s changelessness which is forever changing; the timelessness of songs, prose and ideals that sustain us in our rapidly changing lives; life‚s loss, pain and the possibility of redemption.

      Music has been Judy Collins‚ survival mechanism as she has confronted her own life‚s losses. Inevitably, she reminds us, we lose everything. She‚s confident that that‚s what we‚re here for. But in the surrender, she believes, is the win, in the loss the gain. The depth of our experience, she believes, is in direct proportion to how much we‚ve been able to accept and be rendered available by the losses in our life.

      That perspective is part of what Ms. Collins offers her admirers, who now span generations. Ms. Collins followed her father‚s footsteps into the music world and still feels his influence, as recently as when she started her own record label, Wildflower Records. Running a business, she knows, requires commitment and courage. Then, she believes, you just keep moving. Keep exploring.

      Given her impact on millions over a lifetime, does Ms. Collins feel a sense of responsibility? Not really. More a sense of gratitude. And pleasure. In her life, she says, she has done what she loves -- the greatest gift one can have, whatever the arena -- and that still seems somehow unlikely. (Sandy Denny, who wrote„Who Knows Where the Time Goes,š was less fortunate.)

      Judy Collins keeps growing, challenging herself, writing books and songs, performing. She does so in league with her admirers. The blessing, she say, is -- having had the pleasure of doing her work -- people read her books, listen to her music, come to her concerts. And so, artist and audience together continue their journeys, mindful of the time and of the timeless.

Conversation 1

Judy Collins describes what she believes is the theme of our time to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, with stories about her father and the variety of ways he impacted her life.

Conversation 2

Continuing with stories about how her father dealt with his blindness, Ms. Collins considers music as her family‚s business. Consistency, continuity and courage are key, she believes, and expands. She describes the example her mother (now 85 years old) sets. The eternal verities are discussed, with examples of how Ms. Collins decided to invest in herself in her Wolftrap television show. She sings bits from the album, including„The Gypsy Rover,š and remembers how that song changed her life.

Conversation 3

Ms. Collins tells why, having not recorded them before, she included„Danny Boyš and „Gypsy Roverš in„Live at Wolf Trap.š She describes the qualities she appreciates in both. She compares the two and others to her own compositions, singing the examples. She describes what she thinks makes a song a „classic,š how people always have and still do use music, and what memory contributes to both. Live music is discussed. Ms. Collins illustrates the power of simplicity. Real emotions are compared to ersatz ones. Acknowledging her role in adding orchestration to popular music, Ms. Collins champions natural sounds. She recalls her husband‚s life-altering advice about audiences and songs.

Conversation 4

The conversation turns to„Amazing Grace.š She recounts it‚s history, wondering if the melody was influenced by melodies from the holds of slave ships the author commanded before converting to the abolitionist cause. She tells why she often ends evenings with this powerful song.  Redemption is discussed, along with the creation of other profoundly simple songs. She offers examples of connectedness from her album„Whales and Nightingales,š whose significance she describes. The role of the arts is explored. Ms. Collins considers how we all must come to terms with life‚s losses and pain. She describes her prose and suggests how her books connect with her songs.

Conversation 5

Connecting the discipline, emotional and spiritual aspects of the act of singing, Ms. Collins adds motion to the mix. She compares the depth of words and music. She describes the interaction of words and music as she composes. She connects practice discipline, inexplicable talent and primordial forces in her own and others‚ music. Describing how her audiences have changed over the decades, Ms. Collins tells of her fans‚ enthusiasm, comparing the process of people using her website to the coffeehouses of her youth. She describes composing „My Fatherš and expands on its meaning. She gives examples of poetic license and expresses her appreciation for the life she has lived.

Conversation 6

Ms. Collins tells how she connected with Sandy Denny‚s song,„Who Knows Where The Time Goes,š describing with a poignant personal example the importance of the song. Ms. Collins bows to the magic of how music can capture both time and timelessness.


The incomparable Esther Levine was key to connecting us with Judy Collins. Ms. Collins‚ support staff at Wildflower Records then rose to the occasion. And The Commerce Club in downtown Atlanta provided the setting for this wonderful collaboration.  We are grateful to all concerned.

Related Links:
Judy Collins‚ website is a pleasure for those of us to whom she has sung for decades and for younger people eager to expand their appreciation for Ms. Collins‚ music and for her social conscience. In addition to a full discography and bibliography, you will find the records she now releases on her own label, Wildflower Records. You can also contact Ms. Collins from her site.

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