Many of us know who Judy Collins is – at least, the baby boomers who grew up on her music. But did you know that Judy Collins isn’t just a singer, but also a songwriter, an author and an activist?
The multi-talented Collins, born in 1939, continues to write and perform even today.
Judith Marjorie Collins, a native of Seattle, Washington, studied classical piano as a child and made her public debut at age 13. However, she fell in the love with the music of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie as a teen, and began singing traditional folk music.
Her pure, sweet soprano became one of the signature sounds of the 1960s, starting with her first album, “A Maid of Constant Sorrow,” in 1961. She went on to record songs by others she admired, such as Bob Dylan (“Mr. Tambourine Man”) and Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
Collins turned to other genres a few years later, with the release of “In My Life,” which added theater music to her repertoire and introduced her audience to the writing of Leonard Cohen; it was one of her six albums to go gold.
In 1967, she propelled herself and then-little-known songwriter Joni Mitchell to stardom with her recording of Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” was released. This song reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and is now in the Grammy Awards’ Hall of Fame.
Collins’ eclectic repertoire includes gospel songs, such as “Amazing Grace,” Broadway standards like “Send In the Clowns,” and songs of her own, including “My Father” and “Born to the Breed.”
Collins still has an active recording and touring schedule, and is a popular nonfiction writer as well. She’s written several memoirs and self-help books in the past two decades, including “Trust Your Heart (1987),” “Amazing Grace (1991),” “Shameless (1995),” “Singing Lessons (1998),” and “Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival and Strength (2003).”
In 2007, she released her CD “Judy Collins Sings Lennon and McCartney” and also published a new book, “The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy,” based on her experience in the aftermath of her son’s suicide in 1992. She also wrote about his death in the memoir “Sanity and Grace,” and composed a heartbreaking ballad about her loss, “Wings of Angels,” that she performed in a recent appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
She has become a strong advocate for suicide prevention, as well as working with UNICEF and campaigning for the abolition of landmines.