Judy Collins: “When I discovered folk music, I also found the drink”

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Judy Collins: “When I discovered folk music, I also found the drink”


Barbara Allen, by Jo Stafford

I had been playing the piano since I was five, and at 15 I was memorizing Rachmaninoff concertos. But Barbara Allen, recorded by Jo Stafford, steered me towards the music that was becoming the renaissance of folk music in the United States. I knew Stafford’s voice very well – his My Funny Valentine was one of our favorites. She was such a gorgeous singer and her version of Barbara Allen was just stunning. That and The Gypsy Rover were songs that took me to a new life. I often say, however, that I was born knowing the lyrics of Danny Boy because my father sang all kinds of things – I would have heard that in the womb.

When I discovered folk music, I also found the drink. I found out that I could play the guitar, sing a song and have a few drinks. You cannot do this when you are practicing Rachmaninoff – there are too many of them. So I found a social background and a career in folk music. If it weren’t for the parties on Lookout Mountain near Denver with a bunch of folkies, those long haired creatures in sandals (even in the snow), I would have found something else because I had to drink.

Barbara Allen by Jo Stafford.

I tried to kill myself when I was 14 because I was depressed – of course I didn’t succeed, luckily for my family, because I think it would have destroyed my dad. People who try to kill themselves don’t give you a warning – it’s always serious. I changed my mind, most definitely, but there was no doubt that I was serious when I made my attempt.

My father, Chuck Collins

I drank for 23 years, and during that time I was able to forge a career that has lasted to this day as the Energizer Bunny. I was pretty much the pure definition of an alcoholic – I didn’t use a lot of drugs, I always thought they interfered with my drinking – and I was a successful working alcoholic. It ended in 1978 – I was terribly ill and really lost everything that mattered to me. I had no money and I couldn’t work. I got sober, thank goodness, because I have these fiercely busy, successful and amazing years to look back on. Without discipline, I would be nowhere today.

I grew up with this sense of discipline and art: getting up, having meals, going to bed, two hours of piano practice, all at a certain time. I sometimes wanted to rebel, which is probably why I started drinking. After my suicide attempt, my father wrote me a letter and apologized for being such a chef de mission – which he was – and yelling at me for not training enough. These excuses have gone a long way in securing my sense of healthy attitudes.

He made a living in the radio business and doing concerts – he had that wonderful voice, and he sang, told jokes, talked politics… that was that old-fashioned golden age of radio. He was also blind, which interested people and made him a double hero. He moved without a dog or a cane; he would come to your house and quickly learn where each room was and how to go up and down the stairs. He walked everywhere – at first the bus driver in our neighborhood didn’t know he was blind, then tried to offer him a free fare, but my dad turned it down saying, “I’m like everyone else. world, I will pay my way. This is what we have all been taught: pay your way.

Judy Collins with her father, Chuck, in 1951.

He was a great reader. We grew up with Dostoyevsky, Moby-Dick and War and Peace. He would read us his books in Braille which he had obtained from the Library of Congress; these enormous constructions in these boxes would rise on the walls. We had a whole wall of our garage in Denver filled with them. He said, “It’s not that bad. At least you can read in the dark. He was remarkable in many ways, and died too soon, of an aneurysm, in 1968 at age 57. He lived long enough to see me make a career, and it was very rewarding for him.

We were Roosevelt’s children raised on the results of depression. Like many parents who came out of it and went through horrible things like the McCarthy era, they came out with values ​​and a sense of style and integrity that I think is lost on our compatriots today. . Taking responsibility for oneself is what we have been taught in our family; that and manners and generosity. We have a whole new life here now, because we have a president whose hero is Roosevelt – Biden understands that you have to take care of those who don’t. I don’t care how hard the Republicans are going to fight because they’ve always fought us, and they’re always ready to tear down the government, to hurt us. I don’t think they’ll be able to break through this new breath of fresh air. It’s a miracle. For the past four years, we have been heading towards the abyss. At all levels: moral, physical, spiritual, the integrity of this country was in smoke. So for that to happen, it makes you believe that someone out there has something good on their minds for all of us.

Antonia Brico, music teacher

Brico Antonia… “She was a pioneer. Photographie: Duane Howell / Denver Post / Getty Images

Brico was the first female conductor to conduct major symphonies, starting at the Berlin Philharmonic when she was 27, and later becoming the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic. She was a trailblazer – and she was here in Denver. I walked into Brico’s studio, she listened to me play and said, “I don’t know – the technique is pretty bad, but let me see what I can do. She took me under her arm, handed me the score of Mozart’s piano concerto K.365 and said: “In two years, you’re going to play this with my orchestra.” I spent the first month memorizing it, on a road trip from Denver to Seattle to visit my loved ones. The score was spread out in the backseat of the car in my lap.

She was a powerhouse and extremely demanding. To this day, I can sit at the piano and practice my exercises while reading a book; quite often, I read The Count of Monte Cristo while doing Hanon [piano exercises]. After I left, having told her that I was going to sing Jimmy Crack Corn instead of playing Rachmaninoff, she came to see me do concerts at Carnegie Hall and say: “Little Jude, you really could have gone elsewhere!”

I decided to make a movie about her – it cost me a few hundred thousand dollars – a lot of money in 1972, especially if you were someone who didn’t have one. It was released in 1975 under the name Antonia: A Portrait of Women. He was nominated for an Oscar and added to the Library of Congress, where he lives forever, along with Chinatown, for the year 1975. His career was back on track thanks to this movie, so I caught up with him, although she never said thank you. For several years, I wrote songs and performed at the National Dance Institute, for dancing children. One year, I brought her to this event. She then turned to me and said, “You are wonderful.” That was it! In 50 years!

Denver folk scene

At the Denver Folklore Center, I was going to sit with these long haired hippies and listen to their versions of Barbara Allen. It was run by this very interesting man named Lingo the Drifter, who had come to Denver from Chicago with his guitar. He was an eccentric like my father – multi-faceted, with a literary education – and they talked, sang, drank, and read poetry. Lingo didn’t have any money, so my dad said, why don’t you go to Los Angeles for one of these quizshows? Dressed in his buckskin and turquoise jewelry, Lingo went to Hollywood and appeared in Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life – he won and came home with $ 64,000 in a few paper bags. He bought the top of Lookout Mountain, and there would be these folk society gatherings. He made house beer and borscht, and we were all singing to each other.

Fern Lake, Colorado.
Fern Lake, Colorado. Photographie: Ray Wise / Getty Images

When I was 16 or 17 I met two inspiring kids at the Folklore Center: Dick Barker and Mart Hoffmann, both a few years older than me. Mart was that skinny guy. He took his guitar and sang a song called Deportee. “The crops are all in and the peaches are ripening…” It completely blew me away, and I said he had to teach me, which he did on the spot. Deportee, next to This Land Is Your Land, has become the gem of Woody Guthrie’s material. I don’t think Mart ever understood what he had done, how important it was and how valued and valuable his contribution was with this tune – it’s ingenious. I kept in touch with Mart, who moved to Arizona, and one evening in 1972 I got a call from his brother who told me he had committed suicide. Later, I wrote Song for Martin for him.

Fern Lake, Rocky Mountains

When I was 18, my teenager Peter Taylor and I met. We went up to Estes Park and lived for a few weeks in a cabin owned by my godfather Holden Bowler – whose name was taken by JD Salinger for Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye after being friendly on a ship – and we were ecstatic to find a job at a lodge in the Rocky Mountain National Park, a nine mile hike up to 11,000 feet. Peter brought pipes down from the mountain, so we got water and we stayed there for three months. We served lunch to the hikers who came – I cooked on a wood stove and Peter did the wood chopping. It was heavenly – at the end of summer, how could you leave heaven? We wanted to buy the place, but had to go back to Boulder where we lived. In March of the following year, my son was born and I took my first job, at Michael’s Pub, because we had no money.

Flannery O'Connor… “I was fascinated by her.
Flannery O’Connor… “I was fascinated by her. Photograph: Apic / Getty Images

Flannery O’Connor – Used To Be

I was fascinated by Flannery O’Connor: her struggle and how she continued to face her physical adversity with lupus. And I was just overwhelmed by this book: mostly letters, which tell us what she did every day, how she communicated with her editor, how she spent her time feeding the chickens. He was talking about the organization of thought, the organization of skills and how you pursue it. If you are an energetic person who has a lot of ideas in many directions, you must be able to harness them; The used to being has helped me understand my multifaceted life. I remember when I entered therapy in the early ’60s, when I came to New York, the first thing my therapist taught me was: stay in touch. If someone doesn’t answer your call, call them. Make it your business to build relationships. It’s your job to make this life as interesting and educational as possible – and one that I also got from Flannery O’Connor.

When I was in school, I needed everything I had to be successful in geometry. I think that’s also part of the secret of my career and my life: I know how to get to where I’m going.

Le nouvel album de Judy Collins, White Bird – Anthology of Favorites, sort le 7 mai sur Wildflower Records

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by email at [email protected] or to [email protected] In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis assistance service is 13 11 14 years old. Other international hotlines are available at www.befrienders.org.

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