Judy Collins Brings Authentic Roots of Activism to Pasadena Tonight

Published : Sunday, November 10, 2019 | 6:24 AM

Judy Collins. Courtesy photo

Judy Collins has seen a lot with those blue eyes over the years. The beloved singer and songwriter who was a staple of the 1960s folk music revolution is still rebelling, but in a softer style.

Collins will perform at The Rose in Pasadena on Sunday. She has a new album set for a Nov. 29 release called “Winter Stories.”

“I just keep doing my work and that’s it, there’s no secret to that,” said Collins in an interview with Pasadena Now.

Her demeanor is kind, and at 80, her voice is still as sweet as it was when she recorded the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now,” for which she won a GRAMMY in 1969.

“I had a lot of vocal training with the right teacher,” she said. “I learned what to do, the hard way, with the right teacher.”

Collins admits she’s always benefitted from good teachers. Her father, for one, who was a musician and radio host through whom she said she met many fellow creatives.

She had a classical piano teacher about whom she directed a film, “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman,” which went on to get an Academy Award nomination in 1975.

And while Collins was classically trained, her career has mainly focused on folk music and activism, and it has been a good, long run.

“Not bad,” she laughed. “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I eat right, I exercise every day, I meditate, I have a very good life.”

Made immortal in the song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby Stills and Nash, Collins is still communicating songs that reflect her progressive ideals. And while she may still come off as a flower girl, she chooses the Big Apple, New York City, where she has lived for 57 years.

“It’s those pictures of me in the middle of the flowers,” she said, echoing that people tend to associate her with the Southern California music movement and her album “Wildflowers” (1968).

Her latest full-length, “Winter Stories” is a celebration of many things, including the season that is considered both the most anticipated and the most dreaded time of the year.

“It’s not a holiday album, it’s a winter stories album,” she said. “It has songs for the winter, all seasons of the winter, all holidays, all weeks and all months of the winter.”

Collins has worked with a range of people, from her early collaborations with the 1960s names, to musicians who make their homes outside of the United States.

For Winter Stories, she teamed with Norwegian folk music star Jonas Fjeld and the North Carolina-based bluegrass band, Chatham County Line.

“My manager is married to a Norwegian, and her husband manages [Fjeld],” she said. “He’s very big in Norway and so is the Chatham County Line.”

“We’ve had a wonderful time doing this album,” Collins said.

But, are people buying music?

“Oh they’re buying music all right, they’re buying it on iTunes and other services and they’re buying my albums when they come to my shows,” Collins said. “All of us are on the road and all of us carry our music with us, and all of us sell product. We all sell CDs and vinyl, T-shirts and the rest. Oh people are buying music, don’t think they don’t.”

As for her politics, the progressive roots run deep. It has been her choice to take the activist route but doesn’t feel she should tell other musicians what to do, or how to promote their political beliefs.

“It’s very personal,” she said. “If you want to do something do it, if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. It’s very personal.”

And Collins isn’t silent when it comes to the current administration. She is friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton and so close in fact, it’s been said that the Clintons named Chelsea after Collins’ cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning.”

“Instead of asking my fans what they think of my music, why don’t you ask Trump what he thinks of my music?” she asked. “Why don’t we ask him whether it’s my politics or the music that he likes. I’m not putting up with him.”

Collins will have a New York City residency for the second half of November, but first she’s getting in a bit of California sunshine.

“I love Pasadena and I have granddaughter in Los Angeles and a big family,” she said. “Pasadena is a wonderful audience, I love The Rose, and I’m looking forward to a great show.”

Judy Collins performs tonight at The Rose, 245 E. Green Street, Pasadena. Doors open at 6 p.m., music at 7:00 p.m., show at 9 p.m. For more information go to The Rose


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