Photo by Laura Kelly

Judy Collins

"Sometimes I think we look to other people to define us.
I'm not interested in defining myself,
I'm interested in moving along"

Judy Collins is a folk music legend. Her career spans six decades, from the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, then in California, as the Flower Power movement took root, with Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, to now, at 80, still gigging hard every year with her guitar. 

 

Judy is what The New York Times called a “master song collector”. She is celebrated for reinterpreting other people’s tracks, with an eclecticism that comes from her father, who was a blind radio DJ, singer and pianist. Notably, she covered Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne and Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, basically making both of their careers.

 

In this episode, she talks about the importance of art and activism, such as the time she signed a statement declaring she’d had an abortion, in her friend Gloria Steinem’s Ms Magazine – a year before it was made legal in America. She recalls former lovers like Stephen Stills, getting mixtapes from Leonard Cohen, and going tattoo shopping with Antony Bourdain's mum, but also surviving the darkness of the hippie era, and the demons she’s battled along the way.

 

Trigger warning: this episode contains themes of alcoholism and suicide,

and so listener discretion is advised.

This episode was produced by Shola Aleje.

Intro music by Emmy The Great.

With thanks to Chris Carr at Delta Music.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT: Judy Collins

 

[Advert] Hello, I'm Kate Hutchinson and this is series two of The Last Bohemians. We launched in 2019 with six maverick women and we're back for 2020 with eight, spanning iconic musicians, experimental filmmakers, punk rock painters, literary renegades and witch queens. A huge thank you to everyone who has listened and tweeted and written in over the past year and said they hope they're still having fun with themselves into their eighties like Molly Parkin. And I also really want to thank Mr and Mrs Smith, the brilliant hotel specialists who have come on board, checked in and supported series two. I would prepare to experience some serious wanderlust when you go on mrandmrssmith.com. I like to search according to location – Hampshire, The Himalayas, etc – and then imagine I'm making an OTT entrance in a glamorous cape, or maybe I'm sprawled out on a sun bed, martini in hand. All the locations on Mr and Mrs Smith are handpicked, anonymously reviewed and, they tell me, every guest gets a little something extra too, which is great. So yes, check out their website, but first, this is episode one. 

 

INTRO 

 

Judy Collins: I only did acid twice. Well once, once, years before, well once in 59 or 60 I guess with my husband we found, somebody gave us a magic mushroom and we took it and then we were driving home and we ran into a rabbit and I was, my mind was completely blown from this drug and so I confessed to him that I was having an affair. It was a very bad thing to do! 

 

[musical interlude]

 

Kate Hutchinson intro: Judy Collins is a folk music legend. Her career spans six decades, from the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene to California, as the Flower Power movement took root, with Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, to now, at 80, still gigging hard every year with her guitar. Judy is what the New York Times called a 'master song collector'. She's celebrated for reinterpreting other people's tracks, with an eclecticism that comes from her father, who was a blind radio DJ, singer and pianist. Notably, she covered Leonard Cohen's Suzanne and Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, and kicked started their careers. In this episode, Judy talks about the role of art and activism in her life, such as the time she signed a statement declaring she had an abortion in Gloria Steinem's Ms. magazine – a year before it was made legal in America. She recalls former lovers like Stephen Stills, getting mixtapes from Leonard and tattooed in her 70s, and the importance of female friendship, but also surviving the darkness of the hippie era and the demons she's battled along the way. Judy discusses how she's stayed strong with a refreshing frankness, so much so that I should warn you before we begin that this episode contains themes of addiction, mental health and suicide, which some listeners may find triggering. 

 

MAIN INTERVIEW

 

Kate: Had you always wanted to be a folk musician? 

 

Judy: No. I wanted to be, I wanted to sing, [singing] "Someday my prince will come". That was my first theatrical performance when I was 11 years old, and I played the piano seriously – I was a serious classic pianist. I played Mozart and Debussy and Rachmaninoff and Chopin, and I practised all the time and I had to live up to the expectations of my teacher, who was a real Dutch–Italian ferocious heroine, who was the first woman to conduct major symphonies in the world. So, you know, all those previous years, and even now it's not very fashionable or popular for women to be conductors of orchestras, it's rare. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: What was the song that changed everything for you?

 

Judy: It was listening to the radio when I was 15 and a half or so, and hearing a DJ in Denver play, I mean those radio shows in the old – in the old [laughing], I hate to say it, in the old days – it wasn't genre–driven by any means. People would get on the radio and they would play anything, they would play a cello, unaccompanied cello solo by Casals and then they would play a song from one of the Broadway shows, they'd play something from Guys and Dolls. And then this guy played the Gypsy Rover, which was the lead song that was being played on the radio from an Alan Ladd movie from 1954. This was 55 when I heard it, and I just flipped out, I couldn't believe it. I knew something about traditional music because my dad, after he'd sung, you know, I'll Be Seeing You or My Funny Valentine, he might sing an Irish air, but I didn't hear anything that had that kind of a story and I was enchanted by it. I was mesmerised, you might say, I was carried away, I was spirited off like one of those young girls in those fairy tales, you know with the floaty dress. [Singing Gypsy Rover] "The gypsy rover came over the hill, down through the valleys so shady, he whistled and he sang til the green woods rang, and he won the heart of a lady". 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Judy: I started singing in Denver at Michael's Pub in Boulder, and from the first job I got where I sang five nights a week, three shows a night, a hundred dollars a week, which was a fortune in those days. From then on I was always touring. So I moved to Greenwich Village in 1963 in March or April. I had been in the hospital for five months in Tucson and in Denver because I was diagnosed with tuberculosis in October of 1962, and so I spent five months in the hospital, both there and then in Denver, so when I got to New York I had to make up quickly for time. Now I knew some of the people already that I would see on the streets in New York – I had been when I was the headliner at Gerde's Folk City in 1961. Arlo Guthrie, who was 13, was my opener. And I thought everybody in New York was there to see me, but they weren't, they were there to see Arlo because they wanted to know what Woody Guthrie's kid was going to do. There was no place else for me to be, I was so happy to be there, and I had a little apartment on West 10th and Hudson and I shared it with Vera Hertenstein, who was the secretary at Elektra Records. I'd had, on a handshake, I had a contract with Elektra since 1961 and it was 25 years, the first handshake was 25 years of records. And so I had the record, the recording contract, and so a lot of people were very happy to play their songs for me because they knew that if I liked them and if I record them – and often they didn't have contracts yet – and that's why I developed the history and the reputation for making more people more famous than they were when they just wrote the song and played it in Greenwich Village around the fountain. And, so I had that because I didn't write songs myself, that wasn't my gig, my gig was to find great songs. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Judy: I collect, among other things, I have a lot of art in my home and I'm very involved in certain artists. But I collect paperweights, and paperweights are often called 'a poem in glass' or 'a song in glass', and in a way I look for songs that are gonna be forever. How do I know that? I learnt it from my father first of all because he chose the best songs and my mother always said to me, you know, "You think you came upon this just by your own mind but you didn't because you learned it from your dad". He would hear the shows, he would hear the musicals because he would get them – in those days he was shipped big old fat vinyls from the Library of Congress, of all the shows that came out, and all the books that he wanted to read. But he heard the songs and he would choose the best ones and that's where I learned how to do it, I don't think there was anything formal about his training, he didn't say, "Well it's because this and that". And I don't analyse, I utilise. So it fits if it fits, if I hear it I hear it, and if I don't I never want to hear it again. 

 

Kate: Both Sides Now is known as your 'breakthrough hit' – I say that in quote marks because you had a long career before that – but you won a Grammy for that track. How did you come across that song? 

 

Judy: I was sound asleep in 1967 on the Upper West Side in New York and my friend Al Kooper called me at three in the morning and said, "I have a surprise for you", and I said, "I hope so. I hope this is just not your flight of fancy to call me at three in the morning". Al Kooper started Blood, Sweat & Tears, but he also played the organ on Bringing It All Back Home, he was very involved with Dylan and lots of other people. And so he said, "I have somebody here that says that she writes songs and I followed her home from the club and she started to play me her songs, and so I said to her I have to call Judy and you're gonna have to sing that song to her", and Joni got on the phone and sang me Both Sides Now. My teacher has often said to me, "You have to be able to sing from a sleeping position when you sit up" – you're supposed to be able to think on your feet and do what you have to do and that's it. At three in the morning it doesn't matter, I hear a song – are you kidding? Both Sides Now? That was it. And of course it started my career but it was the turning point, the starting point for Joni's career too .

 

Kate: How did Joni feel about you releasing it first, before she did? 

 

Judy: Oh, my god, she was thrilled! It was her breakthrough. 

 

Kate: I read that she wasn't quite happy with the arrangement? 

 

Judy. Bullshit. [Laughing] 

 

Kate: She did like it? 

 

Judy: Well, I don't care if she liked it. I have no interest in whether she liked it or not – it did her a huge favour, and of course it did me a huge favour, and so I'm always grateful to her. 

 

Kate: Why did it take so long for you to start writing your own songs? 

 

Judy: I don't really know. I didn't, well, I wasn't interested in writing songs, I never thought of it. I had all these great songs coming to me from the time when I discovered the Gypsy Rover and right on through until I met Leonard, and then he was the one who said, "Why aren't you writing songs?", and so that's when I started. I went home and sat down at the piano and wrote Since You've Asked, and I've been writing ever since. And ah, it took me, I always say it took me 40 minutes to write that song, and then the next one took me five years. So that's how they hook you, you know, you get that first one for free and then you have to put in all the time to do all the work. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: The famous story goes that Leonard Cohen owes his career to you, right? 

 

Judy: Yes, and he used to say so, and I was there so I know that it was true. And it was fascinating because I know that he did come to me in ’66 to play his songs because who else was he going to play them for? He wouldn't sing them, he hated his voice, he thought it was terrible. I was told by his friend Mary Martin before I met him she told me about him, she said, "We grew up together in Montreal, he was brilliant. All of his friends and I have always supported his poetry which is obscure" – that's how she described him before I met him. So when he came to my house to play me his songs I didn't put it all together, but now I can. Who was he going to play them for? If he couldn't sing them and he wanted somebody to record them, who was he going to go to? Who was gonna listen but me? Because I didn't write my own songs and I was always looking, so he came to the right person. And then of course we hit it off. TThe first day that Leonard came over we just talked the whole day and then we went out to dinner, and we didn't, he didn't sing me any songs. We just went out to dinner to Tony's, which was a great Italian joint on 79th Street on the Upper West Side. We had dinner, we talked, and I said as we were leaving I said, "You know, Mary told me that you have written some songs, and is there any chance that I might hear them?". Now most people when they're coming to you with songs, they come to the door and they burst through the door and they sing the song and then they leave, and then you record it and they diss you on Facebook [laughing]. So, we hit it off. I saw my old boyfriend Michael Thomas, who lives in England still, and the other night when we were in London we had dinner after the show and I reminded him. He and I were together and Leonard came, the first day that Leonard came over, we didn't hear any songs, and so I said, "Well what are we gonna do?". He said, "Well I'll come back tomorrow", so he came back the next day, and Michael and I, Michael Thomas and I sat in my apartment and listened, and he sang me three songs, he sang us three songs. He sang Dress Rehearsal Rag and The Stranger Song and Suzanne. And I picked up on Dress Rehearsal Rag partly because the album I was in the middle of making, it was called In My Life, and it had the Marat/Sade on it, it had Pirate Jenny on it – I wanted dramatic songs and this was very, I mean, the story of the rehearsal for a suicide, very dramatic, and I was very interested in that subject. And, ah, so he left and I said, "Oh, they're very, really interesting songs", and Michael said to me after he left, "It isn't Dress Rehearsal Rag that you want, it's Suzanne that you want". 

 

Kate: Why that song? 

 

Judy: Well, I said, "Really?", to Michael, and he said, "Yes. Really". And then of course I heard it again the next day because I called Leonard up and I said, "Could you come back and sing me those songs again?", and I said, "Oh my god. This is incredible". 

 

Kate: You found Leonard's songs so irresistible but you managed to resist him, right? 

 

Judy: Yes, I did. 

 

Kate: He must've tried it on with you at one point, Judy? 

 

Judy: Oh no. Oh no. Nmm mmm. I was passionately involved with his songs and with his persona – I adored him. I was very struck by him when he opened the door, when I first saw him, he was very handsome, but his generosity as a friend – he not only shared his songs with me and always sent me little tapes, you know over the course of those many years he'd send me something about every 18 months, I'd get a little tape with new songs on it, and he'd say, "Well choose the ones you want". And he'd send me, you know, Sisters of Mercy and Abraham and Isaac and Joan of Arc and Bird on the Wire – you know, not a bad selection. He called me a few weeks after Suzanne came out and he said, "Well, now you've made me famous". And I said, "Well that's very nice to know", and he said, "Yes, you have". It was a big record. It hit the folk scene with a big bang. First of all it was different, it was a, it was, I was breaking the rules – I had an orchestra, Josh Rifkin was orchestrating the songs. Pirate Jenny was not a folk song, and the Marat/Sade was far from a folk song, although it was very very political. 

 

Kate: One of the other people that you weren't sure at first would go anywhere was Bob Dylan, of course. 

 

Judy: [Laughing] 

 

Kate: What were your first impressions of him? 

 

Judy: He was in Denver in 1959 when I was in Colorado, he would come up to see me at a place called The Gilded Garter in Central City, and he was the shrubby looking guy, homeless, looking for a place to stay. We had a singer in Denver at The Exodus that he would hang out with and try to get just a room for the night, night after night after night. He was almost like a ski bum. And so I just thought, ah, he plays Woody Guthrie blues and badly, not perform very well, not chosen particularly well, and so when I got to New York he was there too, and so I'd have a few drinks with him – he was still calling himself Robert Zimmerman. That was in April of ’61 and by the end of that year, by August, September, October, I looked in this songbook, and we all got it at one of the bookstores in the Village that we all hung out with, and I saw this song printed out, it was called Blowin' in the Wind.  And it had the lyrics and the melody and so on, and I looked at it and then I saw at the bottom it said Bob Dylan, and I said – and he'd changed his name, I knew that – but I thought, "He didn't write this. This is impossible." [Laughing] 

 

Kate: In your first autobiography that you've written, you described him as having an 'okay voice', but Joan Baez, your friend, said he looked like a toad? 

 

Judy: [Laughing]

 

Kate: I thought that was hilarious. What did you make of that? 

 

Judy: Joan never minces her words. Yeah, he did look like a toad! He was not... Leonard Cohen. Let's put it that way. 

 

Kate: It's nice to hear you on stage during your shows talk about these hilarious stories, but it's nice to hear you talk about these lotharios, because I feel like women at the time, you know they're talked about in terms of being girlfriends or muses – did that ever feel frustrating or annoying? 

 

Judy: Well I'm very happy to have been a muse for Stephen Stills. [Laughing] But then after all I'd already slept with him so there you go [laughing] 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: What was LA like at that time? 

 

Judy: I was so privileged to have this band that I had when I did that album. I'd recorded a lot of Wildflowers there too. It had Both Sides Now on it, it had Albatross which I wrote really for Joan Baez she doesn't really know that [laughing] but you can tell her. I was inspired by a visit to her house in Carmel to write about her in the song, and then I went back to LA to record Who Knows Where the Time Goes, and at that point I had this fabulous, fabulous group. It was consisting of Van Dyke Parks and Stephen Stills and the two guys from Nashville who were so famous at that point and still, Buddy Emmons and James Burton, just fabulous performers. So I was wrapped up in the music. It was wonderful, it was cosy, it was friendly, it was full of drugs which I only took once, thank god. 

 

Kate: I read that you had an acid trip with Mary from Mamas and Papas, is that correct? 

 

Judy: With, ah...

 

Kate: Michelle.

 

Judy: Michelle. But that was in ’63. I was with my lover, and he and I – who was also my producer at that time – and John – I love John Phillips – John and Michelle and I and Walter, went down to the seedy little, little room, before they were The Mamas and the Papas, and turned on and it was a horrible trip, it was horrible. It took me weeks to come down and a couple, three or four bottles of Jim Beam before I could, you know. And I thought, "Well I'll never do this again". So then a few years later I took acid with my friend John Cooke, Alistair Cooke's son. John Cooke was a very close friend, I adored him, he also became Janis Joplin's road manager, he's the one who found her when she died. But he was an angel. His father, Alistair Cooke and his wife, of course, they had a beautiful place out on Long Island, and Michael Thomas and I went out there with John and took acid. It was another horrible experience! Well first of all the birds gave lectures and spoke in tongues, but then it got horrible. So that was it for me with acid, enough already. 

 

Kate: So that part of the hippy experience was not for you. What about free love? Did that resonate with 

 

Judy: Hmm. Well it's never free. You know that. [Laughing] It's never free. 

 

Kate: People talk about the hippy movement as being quite idyllic, you know, it's Woodstock, it's paisley print, it's dropping in, it's tuning out – but there was this dark side, there was this bleakness that went alongside it? 

 

Judy: Oh, absolutely. Addiction was a primary mover. It was the go-to force in the quotes unquotes 'hippie movement'. And, you know, I didn't, I mean acid made me crazy, pot made me nuts and totally, I could never ever deal with it. I was busy drinking, so that was good – saved me from a lot of terrible experiences. You didn't wanna mess with me when I was drinking, I'll tell you! I ran into a guy recently who said to me, and he must've been in his 60s, he said to me, "I was on a plane with you years ago and I was sitting behind you and you were in front of me, and you were necking with the guy that you were with", and I said, "Oh, I bet you, I guarantee you that I didn't know him". 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: There were the four Js I think – Jody, Judy, Joan and Janis. Did you stick together? Did you feel like you had to stick together back then? 

 

Judy: No, no. I don't think there was anything like that going on, you know, I think we watched each other. I didn't know Janis at all, but I did know that Janis drank like a fish, she was very public. Whereas I don't know about me, I'm not sure people got that about me, I don't think they would've said that about me. My doctors would say, "You don't look like an alcoholic, you're too successful". And I had a... a sort of facade that I maintained – well I had to maintain – because I had to be on time, I had to do things that looked, that were, authentic. It's one thing to drink a lot, it's another thing to drink too much. I hadn't really reached the point of drinking too much yet. But we were sitting one night, we were at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, and John was there, John Cooke was there, and we were together and we'd gone to go out and see Paul Williams at the Troubadour. And so we were all sitting at this table and talking and drinking, I'm sure we were drinking a lot, but Janis turned to me and said, "You know, one of us is gonna make it, and it's not gonna be me". It was shocking. I wrote it down in my journal. I never forgot it. 

 

Kate: Life magazine put you on the cover in, what was it 1969?

 

Judy: 9. Mhmm. 

 

Kate: And they called you 'the gentle voice amid the strife'. How did that sit with you? 

 

Judy: Well, I thought it was an interesting piece of literature in a sense, because it would stay with me, and a lot of people had thought about it as the right terminology. I think sometimes we do look to other people to define us. I'm not interested in defining myself, I'm interested in moving along and working hard. And also I had this double thing going on whereas I was drinking but I had the other side of that, which is the type-A perfectionist in me, so that I was always on time, I never looked like I was having a problem – unless you're on the airplane with me and the guy behind me saw it – I didn't look that way. I showed up on time, I performed, I never cancelled, until the very end and then I cancelled everything. 

 

Kate: So did you ever want to rebel against that image of you as this sort of voice of the people or Judy Blue Eyes – was there any part of you that thought, "Do you know what, I don't like being portrayed this way"? 

 

Judy: No, I didn't think about that, I don't think about that. Because the work that I do, what I have as a career and what I do as a calling, is very demanding and it also means that from the very first – even when I was drinking but certainly after I'd gotten sober – my whole point was to have a life that had art and literature and high quality reading and learning and studying and being a part of what was an overall lifetime education. I mean I really believe that each one of us has the responsibility of figuring out what to do with what we've been given. And I was lucky because I was raised in a family where that was recognised. I tried to kill myself at 14, and I didn't succeed obviously, but my father wrote me a note afterwards and it was very perceptive, and very, very strange in a way, but he had a lot of things to say, and one of the things that he says was – because I'd been working like a professional since I was like four years old! Studying and performing and going on a show and being on the school shows and the church choir and the school choir and the master classes and so on. So I was already forming something that would become what I do today. And he said, "You can't do what you tried, because there's too much involved in what's already been given to you and what your responsibility is to go forward". I mean, it sounds like a heavy letter, but it was an apology as well, so that helped. 

 

Kate: How taboo were subjects like depression and suicide in the 1960s and 70s? 

 

Judy: Well I got straight into therapy when I was 23 in New York, so I was also in a very liberal community. I mean, I was in a community that would think and talk about those things. Ah, I don't think that it was something that the general public was talking about because there weren't any books about suicide, even at the time that my son committed suicide in 1992, there weren't any books about suicide yet. So it had not evolved from being a taboo into being something that is discussed everywhere. If you walk in, if you can find a bookstore, you can walk into a whole selection of books about every kind of taboo. You know, you can find just about everything you want today. It wasn't true then, it wasn't true 30 years ago. I would probably not be here if I hadn't been, hadn't had a lot of years of therapy. 

 

Kate: But they were also quite controversial weren't they, the Sullivanians?  

 

Judy: Yeah, the Sullivanians. They were [laughing]

 

Kate: You're smiling.

 

Judy: They were a little creepy [laughing]. But they had insight into the process of being an artist, they understood that, and part of their problem was people having kids and getting torn apart by what they couldn't do and shouldn't do and might not be able to do as artists, had to do with that conflict. And they were interesting people, and they knew a lot about life and about creativity, and I think that's what I needed, desperately. 

 

Kate: When you talk about that conflict do you mean that children hold you back creatively, or that partners might hold you back creatively? 

 

Judy: Well there are taboos that develop in the family that allow you not to want to stretch or to prevent you from stretch[ing] – I know that it's true. And sometimes, you know, well nowadays we have Al-Anon in the twelve steps, and part of it is that we learn that other people are not in control of us, and whatever they think of us really is not worth bothering with. But quite often it torments us and twists us from our path, so the whole point is to get out of your own way, and if people are in your own way, get rid of them. Get them out of your life. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: You're friends still with Joan Baez though? 

 

Judy: I've always been friends with Joan. 

 

Kate: Didn't she get you a really great present for your 80th? 

 

Judy: It's an extraordinary jacket, it's completely, um, sequinned. Pink, bright pink. She was at my party in May, my 80th birthday party, and so she sent me this sparkly jacket and I called her and I said, "You know, we would never have worn this. We would've been drummed out of the core if we tried to wear this in 1960 or tried to go on Newport and wear this jacket!". It would've been like Dylan going electric, you know. She's the best, she is so funny. She should be getting the Nobel Prize, because she is the numero uno activist. She always shows up, she always takes part – she's much braver than I am. I wouldn't go some of the places that she goes. And I think she's remarkable, and I've always thought that that part of her life is not understood or recognised as much as it should be. She's the real deal. 

 

Kate: I saw a picture of her that she's got a new wrist tattoo. You've also got a tattoo on your hand? 

 

Judy: Yes I do. This came about because Anthony Bourdain's mother called me, she got in touch with me through a mutual friend, and she needed to talk to somebody who had lost a son to suicide, she didn't know anybody else. And she and I did not know each other, and we became friendly. And one day – and she's an amazing woman, she was, she died just a few days ago this January. Um, and ah, she was an editor at The New York Times for 25 years, and she called me one day and she said, and we talk about everything together, she called me and she said, "I'm gonna go down to Tony's tattoo parlour in the West Village, way down on Lafayette Street, and I'm gonna get Tony's name on my wrist. Do you want to come?", and I said, "Sure!". I said, "Do you think you could do a bird for me, a swallow?", and he said, "Sure". So he drew this, and people say to me – and there's Clark's name, of course – and people say, "Did it hurt?", and I say, "Ooh yes". It's in that place where it hurts. But there was a sign over the wall that said 'No whining', so I didn't whine. 

 

Kate: What's gonna be your next one? 

 

Judy: I don't know. 

 

Kate: Do you know where you might get it? 

 

Judy: Well I thought I might, see, you see my necklace? Oh you can't see it here

 

Kate: Oh yeah, what does that say? Resist. So you might get that tattooed? 

 

Judy: I think I might. I don't know where yet. 

 

Kate: Why are you drawn to that word in particular, Judy? 

 

Judy: Well because we have to resist, we have to be – we cannot be complicit with things that are going on that are destructive and horrible, we have to resist. And as Alan Cumming's emails always say: 'Resist and insist'. [Laughing] 

 

Kate: Wait – you get emails from Alan Cumming? 

 

Judy: I do [laughing]

 

Kate: Oh my goodness!

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: How important has it been for you throughout your life to surround yourself with strong, funny, incredible women?

 

Judy: Oh, life saving. Life changing. Dominant among my friends has been the quality of strength and courage and creativity and "don't tell me I can't do this".

 

Kate: You do up to 130 shows per year. A lot of people might just think, "Ah god, I just can't be bothered anymore". 

 

Judy: Well you have to take note of what keeps you healthy. Keeps you healthy physically, mentally, spiritually. So if I didn't do what I do, I'd have to find something else that satisfies all of those areas, and I can't imagine what that would be. So what I'm involved with is a format for my own mental health and for my own physical health, and that involves doing, I mean there's certain things that I must and almost always do. When I wake up, I'm very grateful for everything in my life. I have breakfast, I um... usually do the crossword puzzle. I write in a journal, I do some meditation, I do some yoga. I have a call with a self help group, usually. I call a friend. Usually I am busy until 11ish at home. And on the road I try to filter in the same things. I have a series of books that I read, including – first thing I start out with everyday is Thomas Wharton because I love Thomas Wharton. And then I read a Tao book called Tao 365, and then I read Emmet Fox. So those three are primary on my list, and I read them everyday. I think that one thing that's helped me is focus. As a child I was always focussed because I had to practise all the time, and I had teachers that demanded a lot, and my object was to be learning – learning songs, learning to play the piano, learning to show up, learning to perform. But that started very early, because I was performing from the time I was four, five, six years old. And I do think that the secret is to find something that drives you, and to put it first. One of the things you might do is to pick up Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way. Now The Artist's Way is a big book about creativity but also it's a very, it's a very good reminder that one of the things that helps us all is to keep journals. I mean in a way the podcast is a journal keeping tool, and I started keeping journals, I started writing in my journal when I was 15. I still have it, dog–eared thing as it is. And then when I got into therapy I was always writing my dreams, and it evolved into writing journals, and I still – I wrote this morning! So part of it is to take yourself – I don't mean to be a smart ass and I don't mean to provoke people, I don't mean to brag – but to take yourself seriously. Take your own inventory – who am I? What do I love? Who do I love? Who do I like to spend time with? What makes me laugh? What makes me weep? And I think an inventory is easily accomplished if you're writing what's going on. 

 

Judy: All of the questions that you're asking me can probably be answered by one single answer: it's art that keeps us on the planet. It's music, it's painting, it's singing, it's writing – it's art. And if we don't do it and we don't expose ourselves to it, we don't know about the healing properties of art. I have a friend who was the President of the Metropolitan Museum for a long time, Emily Rafferty, and she told me this story that when 9/11 happened, Rudy Giuliani had one of his brighter moments and called her and said – he was the Mayor at that time of New York – and he called her and said – and everything was shut, everything was closed – and he called her up and he said, "You must open the Metropolitan". And she said, "I can't", I mean, we didn't have phones then, you know, cell phones or anything. She said, "Everybody's gone, it's all shut", and he said, "You have to open the museum", and she did. They went out on the street, they called everybody, they found the, and they opened the museum. And of course it's because he said, "People have to know that before this happened for centuries people have gotten through these things, they've lived through them, because that's what art tells us. That's what music tells us". That's what my current struggle to write the song that I'm trying to write tells me – it tells me that that's the driving force, that art and beauty and music are the driving force, no matter what the rest of us is telling us. The rest is passing, really. 

 

Kate: You've lived through so many different eras of politics, trends and scenes and fads come and go. Do you see things as being different now, or are we just kind of stuck in a cycle? 

 

Judy: Well do you think that history – somebody said it, I think it was Doris Kearns Goodwin who said 'History doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme'. There is a sense of understanding, because I do read a lot of history, that we never, never, things never get nailed down, that's one of the problems. Let's talk about abortion, for instance, in the States. I was one of the people – when Gloria calls you, you answer the call – and Gloria called me and said, "Are you going to come to Washington and talk about your abortion?", and I said, "Of course!". And so I'm one of the people, one of the 100 who went to, who spoke about my abortion to Congress, in 70 whenever it was. Many young women think, "Oh it's done and dusted, it's finished" – well it's not, by a long shot. And that's true for a lot of things. And when they come back into our present tense and we have to look at them again, or freshly if we're there, it's just that the sun comes up everyday and what this planet is about, and probably the whole universe is about is change. It's about change. We gotta get used to it, it's always about change. It's all gonna change, and it does. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

OUTRO

 

Shola Aleje: This episode was produced by me, Shola Aleje. For more information on this podcast, head to thelastbohemians.co.uk. 

END

 

END

CONTACT

For all enquiries please email kate@katehutchinson.co.uk 

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