During her 52 years of music making, Judy Collins has utilized her multiple talents. Her folk artist persona won a Grammy Award in 1968. The classical piano student remembered her unbending teacher in the documentary, “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman,” nominated for an Academy Award in 1975. The fervent activist campaign for just causes in her songs and in the courthouse. The author has penned one novel and six non-fiction books, two of them memoirs. Her most recent book, “Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival and Strength,” reflects on the suicide of her son.
Accepting life as a mixture of sad things and celebrations, she has been recording her thoughts since junior high school and has always kept a journal. She admits that some days she I would rather be writing than singing. She wrote a song book in 1969 and by the time she wrote her first memoir in 1987, she could not stop.
During a conversation, she acknowledged that she found it hard to live in the present because she is always looking back at those who came before her. She enjoys going to ancestry.com and reading about the first family member who emigrated to the United States, a preacher from Dorset, England who came in 1811. There were lots of preachers in her family, including a great-uncle who was a missionary in China and a big game hunter. He shot many lions at a time when lions were menaces.
As she continues to tour the world and record, Collins seeks songwriters whose words speak to her. “Paradise,” the most recent album on her Wildflower label, is a remarkable mixture of evergreen numbers like “Over the Rainbow” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and songs for the 21st Century.
Perhaps the most poignant is “Kingdom Come,” the song she dedicated to the New York firemen lost at 9/11. “Weight of the World” introduces the fresh voice of Amy Speace, a former Shakespearean actress, who owes her new career to an incidental meeting with Collins' manager. The song was named # 4 Folk Song of the Decade by New York radio station WFUV.
Of all the causes Collins has championed in the past, she says that anti-war was the most important and she considers 'Weight of the World' to be as good as any anti-war song she has heard. The album also has a new song about Gauguin and duets with Joan Baez and Steven Stills.
Perhaps the most poignant of her songs to be introduced in the next album is one she wrote for her mother before she died last year. She calls it 'In The Twilight' because that is where her mother was. It joins other tales of heartache and problems found in the album's folk songs and covers.