The great Judy Collins has a message for the people of Cranbrook.
“I sure look forward to seeing you,” she said, while speaking to the Daily Townsman this week. “I can’t wait to be singing there for you. And I hope you’ll all come and have a great time.”
The legendary singer – who released her first album in 1961, discovered Canadians Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, and became one of the most beloved vocalists of the past 50 years – is in Cranbrook as part of a swing through the theatres of smaller cities in the U.S. and Western Canada.
Though perhaps Canadian tour is the wrong phrase. Like Bob Dylan, her famous compatriot from the folk revival movement, Collins is on a never-ending tour of sorts.
“I’m always on tour, so wherever I go there I am,” she told the Townsman from New York.
“I do about 120 shows a year all over the country and all over the world.”
Collins has been a musical presence since her involvement in the folk music scene of the early 1960s, through the heyday of that famous musical decade, recording songs by artists like Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, and other, before those artists themselves achieved the acclaim they were to reach.
Her musical style became more and more diverse from the guitar-based folk songs she started out recording, until by the early 1970s she was standing out for her own compositions as well.
In 1975, her version of “Send in the Clowns,” a ballad written by Stephen Sondheim, won song of the year at the Grammy awards. Judy has continued an impressive musical career with an extensive catalogue from every decade throughout the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and up to the present.
Collins’ Cranbrook show will be an intimate, stripped down presentation — guitar and piano.
“I always travel with a pianist, and I play the guitar, so that’s what we do. I’ve always done that so it’s fine with me — it’s wonderful.”
She also discussed the program the audience can expect.
“We’ll be doing a lot of the new things we’re doing, including a (composer and songwriter Stephen) Sondheim PBS special — so we’re adding some Sondheim. There’ll be some Irish songs — I just did a big Irish PBS show in County Clare – as well as some of the hits. We’ll certainly be doing ‘Send in The Clowns,’ ‘Both Sides Now.'”
Collins’ 50-plus year career has been a throughline through several important musical eras. She was asked if there were any particular moments that especially stood out for her.
“Surely the first 10 years or so were the highlight,” she answered. “The high point is the ’60s in terms of the writing, the singer-songwriters, the recording.
“The record labels were strong, the clubs were strong, the concerts were strong — the television shows were even strong. There were people like the Smothers Brothers, Glen Campbell — there were very strong music shows as well.
“The whole network was supported, and the songwriters were there,” Collins said. “It was a very exciting time.
“And of course I worked with everybody from Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Farina — discovered Joni Mitchell, discovered Leonard Cohen.”
Collins spoke of her long affiliation of the most famous and renowned of Canadian musicians.
“I was very much involved with the Canadian writers from the first,” she said. “I got to know (folksinger and songwriter) Ed McCurdy, the great Ian and Sylvia. I recorded their song ‘Someday Soon.’
“I also got to know Gordon Lightfoot — recorded his song ‘Early Morning Rain’.”
Not to mention, of course, her decades of affiliation with Cohen and Mitchell.
“I’m very fond of Canadian writers,” Collins said. “There’s something about the Canadian writers that very much appeals to me.”
Collins, now 71, is a modern day Renaissance woman: an accomplished painter, filmmaker, record label head, musical mentor, and keynote speaker for mental health and suicide prevention.
She performs the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook on Wednesday, November 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 plus GST and are available at the Key City Theatre box office or charge by phone at 250-426-7006.