By Eileen Casey
Southampton - Folk icon Judy Collins will perform at The Stephen
Talkhouse on August 7, including tracks from her new CD "Paradise."
The collection of songs selected for Collins' latest project
reinforces her lifelong commitment to quality songwriting and
worldwide reputation as one of the finest interpretative singers in
any genre. "Paradise" is a collection of songs with universal themes,
desires, and cries of a human being searching for paradise here on
earth. There are 10 heartfelt songs with tales to tell about finding
love, losing love, personal freedom and redemption. Collins teams up
with the legendary Joan Baez and Stephen Stills on two tracks.
Collins spoke via telephone this week on a number of issues regarding
the new book "Over the Rainbow," which she performs the song of the
same name, her new CD, "Paradise," and her career:
Are you looking forward to performing in The Hamptons again?
Judy Collins: I have performed in The Hamptons many times over 50
years. I just love it out there and really love working at The
Speaking of Stephens - how was it to work with Stephen Stills?
JC: Stephen wrote 'Sweet Judy Blue Eyes' for me and during the time
we were together he was playing guitar and wasn't singing, and I was
singing, but we had never sung anything together before, although
it's something I have wanted to do for a long time. It was fun to do
and seemed like the right time to do it.
Any comment on today's contemporary vocalists?
JC: I try to keep up, especially since I have my own record label as
to what's around and who is doing what. I love Josh Groban, and I
happen to be a great fan of Lady Gaga. She was on 'The Today Show'
the other day and among her rather bizarre performance she sang quite
a beautiful, old American songbook song, which she sang beautifully.
I was quite impressed I must say - she is an impressive artist, and I
think anybody who takes the talent they have and revs it up to as
high as it can go is to be admired. I don't listen to certain kinds
of music, but once in a while I'll find something that is kind of wonderful.
"Paradise" provides a modern take on the times, with brand new
renditions of archetypal songs made fresh with Collins' striking
arrangements and intimate, breathtaking vocals. The material here is
drawn from great sources such as Jimmy Webb, Tom Paxton, Tim Buckley,
and Stan Jones, to name a few.
Collins, a world-renowned singer and songwriter, has had albums
certified platinum numerous times, and her version of Joni Mitchell's
"Both Sides Now" has been entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Her rendition of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" won Grammy's
Song of the Year in 1975. She is the author of several books,
including "The Artist's Way," the inspirational memoir "Sanity &
Grace," and the novel "Shameless." She is also co-director, with Jill
Godmillow, of an Academy Award-nominated film about Antonia Brico,
the first woman to conduct major symphonies around the world - who
happened to be her classical piano teacher when she was young.
You were named after Judy Garland?
JC: That's correct - in 1939. My father was in the radio business and
sang all the great songs of the great American songbook. He was a
wonderful singer and I was exposed to all of that. When Peter Yarrow
invited me to sing 'Over the Rainbow' on his new children's book I
was thrilled. I got to record one or two other songs, such as
'Diamonds in the Rust' and others, so it was just a great opportunity
As a writer yourself, and a businesswoman, performer and activist,
how do you keep it all together - you must be exhausted!
JC: Well, sometimes I am but I like to keep it together - I take a
nap when I have to, I eat well, I travel with my own food. I take my
vitamins - I'm not perfect but I try to pay attention, besides it's
such a great treat to me to be an artist and get paid for it while
doing something I love and making a living at it.
Regarding Judy Garland, and the number of artists who have covered
"Over the Rainbow" is there any version that you have found
JC: My intention on this was to sing it like Judy Garland, so I
didn't listen to other people. I believe this song in particular is
such a part of our culture and I think the number one thing is to be
true to the song, and the contribution and collaborative effort that
went on here turned out beautifully.
In 2000, Collins founded her own record label, Wildflower Records.
With your own record label, are you actively involved with the
artists who are signed and emerging artists?
JC: Oh yes - I have to be for approval and other reasons. I've done
some work with Amy Speace - she's a terrific songwriter and she is on
my new album. I think she is a great writer, and it's not just
because she's on my label. Kenny White is a fine, fine songwriter,
and we have about 10 artists now on the label, and just added a brand
new artist from the U.K., among others, and they are all incredibly
talented with a broad range of tastes.
As a businesswoman, how do you find the industry to be today versus
when you were doing the majority of performing and recording?
JC: I think you have to determine that you are going to win, no
matter what the odds are, and keep track of what you do. I think life
is complicated enough and now with the internet it can be even more
complicated, but there is also this incredible opportunity that did
not exist before. Try to keep control, that is why I started this
label. Most people coming into this business as an artist - any
artist - visual, vocal, performance - whatever, must be involved in
the marketing of who they are - they have to direct the traffic so to
speak, and that is not something that should be thought of as
distasteful at all. As a mattter of fact, it is part of growing as an
artist. I haven't done as well perhaps as other artists but I try to
think things through, work hard every day and act on it.
With regard to "Paradise," what was your incentive and motivation to
do this particular CD, with these songs at this time?
JC: I needed to do another album, and needed to do an album that
would cross over with something else, so when recording 'Over the
Rainbow' I said let's lay down some other tracks because chances are
there will be something there. It actually came together rather
quickly, so I sent it to Nashville and Jimmy Webb put on these
wonderful orchestrations, the duet with Joan Baez and by the time we
were done I had an abum together. I had this signed Annie Leibovitz
photograph which she had sent to me a few years ago, and I happen to
run across it going through some files, and I thought, Wow, that will
make a great cover - so thanks to Annie as well.
The duet of Collins and Baez singing "Diamonds and Rust," Baez's 1975
hit single, is stunning as you listen to their angelic harmonies
revealing sincere feelings on the complexity of love in haunting
words and melody. And, with the often-recorded Tom Paxton song "Last
Thing on My Mind," Judy Collins pairs up with Stephen Stills to
create a fresh and sweetly melodic track, beautifully weaving their
complementary voices together with soft and jangly guitars of a song
reminiscing a couple's breakup. The poignant duet from these two
former lovers, singing "I could've loved you better...didn't mean to
be unkind, don't you know that was the last thing on my mind" make
for a wonderfully lilting and bittersweet tune.
Renowned for her activism and performing socially relevant material
Collins' "Paradise" includes the recording "The Weight of the World,"
by emerging artist Amy Speace, an anti-war song with powerful and
personal lyrics. Singing about a brother unthinkably heading off to
fight, Collins' voice is a plaintive, universal cry of the
unspeakable senselessness of losing a loved one to war. "Paradise"
concludes with a song of hope and wonderment as you listen to
Collins' enchanting recording of the #1 movie song of all-time "Over
the Rainbow." Her recording of this song is also included on a CD
insert to her new children's picture book project, also titled "Over
Given your hectic schedule writing, performing, recording, and
running a record label, are you still able to devote as much time as
you'd like to the causes you have been associated with over the years?
JC: I am still very much involved in the organizations and community
events I have always been concerned about, and will continue to stay involved.
Of all the songs you have recorded over the years, do you have a
JC: Right how I'd have to say 'Over the Rainbow.' Recording for 50
years you do have some favorites but I do love this song - always have.
At 70 years old, with a career spanning 50 years, recording more than
40 albums, including gold and platinum-selling albums, numerous Top
10 hits, plus Grammy nominations, 'Sweet Judy Blue Eyes' continues to
claim her legendary status as an artist to reckon with.