Issue 593 : February 8-14,
BACKSTAGE WITH ... JUDY COLLINS
by James Gavin
If Joan Baez was the saint of ’60s folksingers, stoically
leading the war-weary flocks to safety, Judy Collins was
the vulnerable one: a troubadour who captured the decade’s
fragility and loss, while offering a calming sense that all
would turn out well. And for Collins, it has. Forty-six
years after her first album, her liquid-silver soprano is
glowingly intact, as is her social conscience. Having
survived alcoholism and her son’s suicide, she’s matured
into an earth mother of reassurance, much of it filtered
into several autobiographical books, including Morning,
Noon, and Night: Living the Creative Life, published in
2005. She long ago moved into artier forms of pop—in 1974
she made “Send in the Clowns” an unlikely hit—and now this
onetime bohemian, 67, is mounting that elitist perch, the
Café Carlyle, for three weeks. It’s the first small club
she’s played since the ’60s, and a hundred bucks will get
you in the door.
Such a bourgeois place
you’ll be singing in!
Well, I love the Carlyle. It’s a New York institution and a
very special cultural thing that happens nowhere else—which
I will bring an antiestablishment air to! [Laughs] It’s
intimate, it’s New York, and it’s a chance for me to be
home and do what I do.
In the ’70s it seemed as
though you were walking away from folk
I made a conscious decision to open up to a lot of other
aspects of who I am, and that’s why I can do the Carlyle
now. I can do Woody Guthrie, Rodgers and Hart, my own
songs, I can make people laugh. I was very somber for 20
years. I had my eyes shut, I was in another world behind
that guitar, and I was not funny, believe me!
You started out at a
time when young people felt they could save the world with
a guitar and a song.
I think that from my early years I had a passionate anger.
We were raised radical, we were raised activist, we were
raised to think that one person could make a difference.
That was all there when I picked up a guitar. There were a
lot of reasons to be mad then. I had a lot of opinions and
a lot of anger, and I still do.
Do you see any
similarities between Vietnam and Iraq?
Both terrible mistakes, with devastating consequences, not
only to the other countries involved but to us personally.
The arrogance, the loss of diplomatic avenues, faith,
integrity. Both outrageous. Un-thought-out. Tragic. For all
the people whose lives have been lost, for all the people
who are damaged and wounded, and for their families, it’s
Judy Collins plays Café Carlyle Tue 13–Mar 2.