“You’re looking at the American Idol of 1956. I’ve been doing this for 60 years,” Judy Collins said [when speaking with The Guardian], and by no means was she exaggerating, not even a little bit.
This week marked the 80th birthday of the prolific American singer/songwriter, known for her eclectic mix of folk music, show tunes, pop music, rock and roll and standards that feature in her extensive catalogue of work. For Judy Collins, social activism has always been at the forefront of her creative focus, inspiring her to record her own versions of important songs, such as Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn", bringing awareness to issues close to her heart.
In this spellbinding performance of "Suzanne" at the 2017 Grammy's, Judy introduces the song with some priceless insight into the history of how it came to be:
Performing the songs of others became an indispensable part of Collins’ career and made her instrumental in introducing little-known musicians to a wider public. With her potent vocal range of embracing warmth, she recorded songs by Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Robin Williamson and many more, long before they gained national acclaim. Collins was also an inspiration to others, in particular, Stephen Stills from Crosby, Stills & Nash (with whom she was romantically involved) who composed, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" in her honour.
Judy Collins was conducive in establishing Elektra Records as a leading exponent of the contemporary folk styling that she embodied. Her sixth studio album released on the label, In My Life (1966) helped redefine what folk could be. Judy had classical training and tapped arranger/conductor Joshua Rifkin to craft orchestral and chamber pop settings for a diverse set ranging from the traditional - Richard Farina's “Hard Lovin' Loser” which would become her first charting single - to then-new songs like Leonard Cohen's “Suzanne” and the Beatles title track. Check it out HERE.
"In My Life" - Live performance from 1966:
Judy Collins’ life work is a masterful catalogue of divine wisdom and enchanting flare. Her crystalline vocals have been delighting listeners for more than half a century. Her accelerated rise to prominence and personal encapsulation of the ethos of the era made her a queen of the ‘60s folk scene. Celebrated, followed and revered with equal enthusiasm by peers and fans alike. In My Life remains one of Judy Collins' very best pieces of work, and we can't think of a better way to celebrate the singer's 80th birthday than by giving it another spin!
Listen to In My Life on Spotify:
Listen to In My Life on Apple Music: