It has been 56 years since Judy Collins made her first album. On the premise that she doesn’t remember the 60s (which in her case may be true except for reading the stories that document what her set was up to), that means she’s had 47 years to hone her craft.
I was never a Judy Collins groupie. I’m always glad to hear Suzanne, or Send In the Clowns, or several others of her hits, and of course she brings back memories (yeah: so do the Kinks, but I’d rather hear her). But I haven’t collected her CDs or spoken adoringly of her, or pored over stories about her.
I heard her in concert Saturday night, though, right here in my fair city, wondering how her voice had held up and how she was adjusting where it hadn’t. The answer to the first is “remarkably well,” to the second “largely moot.”
But one thing she or her music director knows that I didn’t anticipate: People don’t go to hear a 77 year old Judy Collins sing straight through for two hours. They want stories — and she gave them. Stories of one Robert Zimmerman, and of Steven Stills (remarkably little, but matter-of-fact about their affair as the source of Suite Judy Blue Eyes), and of Leonard Cohen, Steven Sondheim, Jeff Bridges and others.
At first it seemed like name-dropping, but she’s far beyond the need to drop other people’s name, having a plenty big one of her own. No, they were mostly lead-ins to another song, and perhaps give her singing voice a rest.
Oh: to transport geezers like me back 50 years. That, too.
Discovery 1: I might like Bob Dylan’s songs better if I only had to listen to Judy Collins sing them.
Reminder 1: I like Steven Sondheim awfully well and she sings him well.
My apologies to Eric VanCleave, Executive Director of the Long Center: It I’d known she was going to be that good, I’d have still had my hand up when, fishing for the right price point, he asked “How many of you would pay $70 to hear Judy Collins at the Long Center?” My bad.
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“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)