Sweet Judy Collins Tells All (Interview)

Sweet Judy Collins Tells All (Interview)

Some songs seem as if they were written just for you.  The lyrics resonate as if they were penned by your own personal biographer.

Judy Collins gets that feeling every time she hears the song Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by legendary folk trio Crosby, Stills and Nash. But then, that song really was written just for Collins.

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes really is my story…”

The songstress and human rights activist writes in her new memoir, aptly titled Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life In Music.  “Whenever I hear the song – in a grocery store, in an airport, on my own CD player – it resounds like a call from the mystic lakes.”

In the book, Collins recounts, among many other musical stories from the 1960s, how Stephen Stills penned the song during a “brilliant romance” when both were “young and innocent.”

Such nostalgic tales, and other less pleasant memories – such as Collins’ battles with alcoholism and her son’s suicide – make Sweet Judy Blue Eyes a gripping and powerful read.

Rock Cellar Magazine tracked down the sweet and insightful Judy Collins, who graciously chatted with us at length about her new book, the generation-defining music of the ’60s, and her latest CD, Bohemian.

RCM: Sweet Judy Blue Eyes is such a textured and evocative read. Your recollections of playing alongside Leonard Cohen, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan in the Greenwich Village scene transport the reader to another time and place.

JC:  I’m delighted to hear that.  I would attribute it to my journals and my memory, and the way I have of putting it all together. I like to make it a story that you might remember. I’m sure it’s because I’m always writing in my journal and I always try to be as descriptive as possible, so that you really get a feeling of what it must have looked like and felt like to be there.

RCM: There are some great stories in the book about the famous club The Bitter End, the Greenwich Village nightclub run by Fred Weintraub.

JC:  Oh yes.  Not only did every folk singer in the business work at Fred’s club – with the brick wall, a hundred seats and that tiny stage – but comics worked there too.  You’d have Bill Cosby, Alan Arkin and Lily Tomlin, then you’d have Joni Mitchell, Harry Chapin, Frank Zappa, Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon.  I was very involved with all those people.

There’s a great new book out now by Fred Weintraub called Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me. It’s about all those people who we know were there, anybody who was anybody.

They were all people who were just starting out — Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan and me.  Anyways, the book is a great read and a lot of fun.

RCM: Along with your recollections of Greenwich Village and that revolutionary era in music, you also write at length about your parents, who come across as remarkable people.

JC:  They really were quite amazing. By the time my father was four-years-old, he was totally blind, but his blindness didn’t hold him back in any way.  It was his inner vision that captivated all of us, along with his flamboyancy and humour, when he was sober.  In the book, I write how strong my mother was and how she had to wrestle with daddy’s rages when he drank.  But he and my mother had a very strong marriage, filled with all kinds of drama.  My father died young, he was just a kid really.

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