Judy Collins: Singing Through the Memories

Originally published with The Bluegrass Situation on July 6, 2016.

Judy Collins has a gift for determining what songs to record. Call it gut instinct, call it intuition, call it what you will, because she, herself, has difficulty articulating the feeling that strikes when she hears something she simply must sing. “I can’t tell you that because it’s a secret,” she says. “I don’t know the answer myself or I would tell you, but if I love it, I have to sing it. It’s that simple. But it’s really the only answer I know.”

Although recognizing songs she wants to sing might be analogous to a lightning flash, singing them often takes far longer. It isn’t a matter of hearing one and then rushing out to record it within days or even weeks. “Songs will sit around and sort of cook in my mind, or I’ll forget about them — but then I never totally forget about them, if I have some feeling about the fact that I should sing them. They hang around waiting to be paid attention to,” she says. Collins points to one song, in particular, that has haunted her ever since she first heard it many years ago: Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Even though she very much wants to record it, she hasn’t figured out how. “I’ll do it someday,” she offers. “It’s a magnificent song. It’s a description of a thing that happened that’s awful and probably preventable, but it’s a very dramatic song and very moving. I don’t know: Maybe the motto is ‘Don’t get on ships that have holes on them.’” It’s a line that could apply to more than just boats. Upon hearing this, her mind immediately jumps to relationships. “That’s an interesting word,” she adds. “I didn’t think of relationships in terms of ships. I’ll have to think about that.” And it rings true: Don’t get on board a relationship with holes, whatever you consider “holes” to be in such a scenario.

[Full article available at The Bluegrass Situation.]

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