GOLDMINE: Congratulations on White Bird. This is a wonderful album that I enjoy from start to finish.
JUDY COLLINS: Oh, thank you. I’m so glad that you like it.
GM: I have been a fan of the song “White Bird” for many years and I was thrilled to hear your version. In 1971, around the time of that I bought your live album Living, which includes “Chelsea Morning,” I also bought an inexpensive sampler album on Columbia called Different Strokes, and first heard the band It’s A Beautiful Day with their song “Soapstone Mountain” from their second album Marrying Maiden, which I soon bought after that. I had yet to hear “White Bird” from their first album until a bit later on FM rock radio, as it was evolving in Cleveland and I immediately loved it and it has become a family favorite.
JC: My friend Brian Perera, who founded Cleopatra Records, sent “White Bird” to me a couple of years ago and I thought about it and realized that I had to sing it. It is such a wonderful song and it was fun to do it as a duet with myself, which is something that I rarely do.
GM: I also mentioned “Chelsea Morning,” and I am happy you have included a version of this song, another of my favorites. I learned that Chelsea Clinton was named after this song.
JC: Yes indeed. The Clintons have told me that they named their daughter Chelsea because of me singing that song.
GM: Your original version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was released on 45 in 1969, the same year as The Beatles’ Abbey Road album debuted, which included George Harrison’s song “Here Comes the Sun.” On this new version, Stian Haslie’s acoustic guitar reminds me of “Here Comes the Sun,” making a wonderful backdrop.
JC: I like that sound. Pete Seeger wrote that song and I spent a lot of time with him, beginning in 1961 until I sat at his bedside the day he died, just a few years ago. I worked with him many times. We were both managed by Harold Leventhal. He and I celebrated our birthdays together often with Theodore Bikel, because my birthday is the first of May, Theodore’s was the second, and Pete’s was the third of May, so our manager often had parties for us. I loved and adored Pete and had a long relationship with him.
GM: When your version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was released on 45, the flip side of the single was “Pack Up Your Sorrows” and these songs are back to back on the new album. This is a bouncy song, written by Richard Fariña, who died so young, from a motorcycle accident, the same year as Bob Dylan’s motorcycle crash.
JC: I met Richard in 1961 at a folk music festival in New Haven, in the pouring rain, and he sang me some of his songs. Soon after he married Mimi and I sang at their wedding. Mimi was the younger sister of Joan Baez, so I knew her very well and I adored her. She was a close friend, as was Richard. There are pictures of us in the recording studio together when we recorded “Pack Up Your Sorrows.” The lyrics were written by Richard along with Pauline Baez Marden, the older sister of Joan and Mimi.
Flip side: Pack Up Your Sorrows
A side: Turn! Turn! Turn!/To Everything There is a Season
Top 100 debut: November 29, 1969
Peak position: No. 69
GM: Thank you for teaching me the beautiful and haunting “When I Go,” and congratulations on keeping Willie Nelson on the beat.
JC: Ha ha. I didn’t know this song either until a couple of years before I recorded it with Willie. It was a real pleasure. It is such a great song and Willie was wonderful on it. Dave Carter wrote this one and he is one of the few young songwriters that I missed. Joan Baez discovered him and did a short tour with him. A fan sent that song to me and I played it over and over and sat down at the piano and began to learn it.
GM: Christmas of 1968, your album Wildflowers was in the Top 5, and the song on which began side two of that album was released as a single, which was in the Top 10, “Both Sides Now.” The arrangement on your new album of this song is very classy.
JC: Since it was such a big hit, I always sing it in concerts. It is a wonderful song, so fun to sing, and I am happy that you are still enjoying it after all these years.
GM: When your Wildflowers album was in the Top 5, The Beatles’ “White Album” was No. 1 and it contained “Blackbird,” which you have included on your new album.
JC: “Blackbird” is such a great song and always a favorite of mine. Linda McCartney and I were friends. I had seen Paul sing Wings songs many times, and after Linda passed away I saw him perform at Madison Square Garden in New York. That night he sang a lot of Beatles songs, and when we left there I said to my husband, Louis, that I had to record “Blackbird.”
GM: You mentioned Joan Baez a couple times. You joined her for my favorite Joan Baez song, “Diamonds and Rust,” another haunting song that I used to listen to on late night radio in 1975. It still gives me chills and I love your harmonies.
JC: Thank you. We had a good time singing it. I love it and I have recorded other songs of hers throughout the years, too. I recorded the song for her husband “Song for David” when he was in prison for being a conscientious objector to war. We all should be conscientious objectors to war and any violence, and we just witnessed an amazing, fantastic decision in Minnesota.
GM: Now, let’s go back thirty years ago. I heard your song “Fires of Eden” on the radio and bought your Fires of Eden album on cassette for my commute in Chicago. I unwrapped it, put it in my car’s tape player, and the first song went on for over seven minutes, “The Blizzard,” and became on my favorite songs that year. It is a wonderful album with “Fortune of Soldiers” following that opening number. “The Blizzard” is my favorite composition of yours with you playing a Jimmy Webb-like piano backdrop to storytelling that reminded me of Harry Chapin, who had been gone a decade by that point.
JC: It was a great tragedy when he died from that accident. I knew Harry pretty well, as we were both on Elektra. I got to spend time with him in the 1970s and I am still close to his brother Tom, Harry’s daughter Jen, and the people who run World Hunger Year, now known as WhyHunger, which is a great legacy of Harry’s. Your comparison of “The Blizzard” to Harry Chapin and Jimmy Webb is a funny combination. Jimmy is the best. I’ll tell Jimmy that and he’ll be amused. I practice the piano every day. I was trained as a pianist and I have to keep at it all the time. I love “The Blizzard,” the story and the feeling of winter in the song.
GM: On the album Winter Stories, also on Wildflower/Cleopatra like White Bird, you recorded “The Blizzard” again as the album’s finale.
JC: I did indeed with Chatham County Line and Jonas Fjeld. That was a great album for us. When it came out in 2019, it went to No. 1 on the bluegrass chart, which I thought was amusing. Then we toured in Norway in February of 2020 and were No. 1 with the album in Norway and were nominated for their equivalent of a Grammy which is called a Spellemann. We have had a wonderful run with that album.
GM: You were back in Norway earlier this year and I see on your website that you have more concerts coming up.
JC: Yes. Like Willie would say, I will be on the road again. Thank you so much for talking with me about my music. It has been an amazing sixty years of doing this.