cover image Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: 
My Life in Music

Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music

Judy Collins. Crown Archetype, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-307-71734-4

Collins’s improbable and utterly charming tale of assuming iconic status as a popular music star from the early 1960s’ onward also proves a tremendously valuable chronicle of the early folk music scene. Collins was there, rather accidentally: she was a classical pianist who had largely grown up in Denver, Colo., to a blind, hard-drinking father who read Dylan Thomas in Braille and hosted a radio literary program; she was married and with a young child when her husband suggested that she get a job at Michael’s Pub in Boulder singing the folk songs she loved. Steeped in the work of Jo Stafford and Elton Hayes, later songs by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Collins was a natural troubadour of traditional ballads like “The Gypsy Rover” and “Maid of Constant Sorrow” and gradually made a name for herself on the circuit, like the Gate of Horn in Chicago and Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village; she secured a long-running record deal with Elektra by 1961, when she was 22. Her memoir portrays the now legendary talent she rubbed shoulders with, especially songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills, and Leonard Cohen, and captures a time in the musical scene replete with experimental drugs and sex, while her encroaching alcoholism stalks her story darkly. By 1978, when she concludes in this forthright, radiant work, she had made scores of records—and quit drinking to save her life. (Oct.)