Judy Collins has the voice of an angel. Singing interpretative folk songs with contemporary themes, this legendary songstress has inspired many with her classical piano and acoustic guitar. We sat down with her, dreamt of world peace, and showed her our sensitive sides.
You’re a veteran in the music scene. How did you get started?
My father had a radio show for 30 years. He was a singer, songwriter, performer—and he even plays the piano. I was sitting on the piano learning songs at five-years-old, and performed in a concert with an orchestra at 13.
So, how do you think you’ve grown over the years?
I am a better singer—my voice has improved and I have more experience under my belt now. And I’ve kept writing over the past 40 years, and that helps me to improve.
Do you prefer singing songs written by others or those you’ve penned yourself?
Well, I just prefer singing songs that I love. I discovered great writers who didn’t have recording contracts—I’m happy to sing for them. For example, I was the first person to sing Joni Mitchell’s songs. She didn’t have a recording contract when I knew her.
What do you think of music counterparts like Elaine Paige and Emmylou Harris then?
They are nice people who do interesting works. I think anyone who has a long career and gets to perform on stage every year gets my respect, because it shows that they are professional. Showing up in concerts, doing work, and not behaving like a brat.
You’ve inspired many with your songs about hope. What do you have to say about that?
Music is very healing, on an emotional level. It is very important for people to listen to music, and feel its spirit. Sometimes music works better than doctors! (Laughs).
We agree. Besides your songs, your book Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Survival, Suicide and Strength, which talks about the loss of your son, moves a lot of people as well. What’s the reason for writing a book about the tragedy?
I’m extremely flattered that many loved it. I am grateful that people found it interesting. When I get hurt, the only thing to do is to write about it. I find it extremely healing. Singing is very healing for me as well.
You’re politically active. For example, you were involved in protesting against the Vietnam War. What drives you to take part in these activities?
I am very opinionated. I have strong ideas about the world, and I want to make sure that my voice is heard. I try to go out and work for various registrations, and be engaged in different activities and doing the right thing, whether it is taking part in the 1964 Freedom marches in Mississippi or being involved in the Vietnam War. The important thing is to take a stand.
Who inspires or influences you?
My 90-year-old mother inspires me. She’s active, she reads, and she’s very involved in the lives of her five children. My dad is a big influence in my music as well, him playing the piano and being a singer-cum-songwriter. I listen to a lot of classical music too. I think it has more depth than pop. I grew up playing classical music. Beethoven and Chopin influence me quite a bit.
What can we look forward to in your coming concert?
I’ll sing hits like “Amazing Grace” and “Send in the Clowns.” There’ll be old songs as well as new songs.
Any hopes for your music?
I just hope I can keep on doing what I’m doing because I love it.