Book Review: "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes"
“I didn’t know it then, but one of the people who would come to hear me in Central City was a young man from Minnesota named Rob Zimmerman. He sang a lot of Woody Gutherie blues, and no one had ever heard of him.”
Rob Zimmerman would eventually be known to us as the legendary Bob Dylan and he, among countless others, make up the long list of friends Judy Collins made on her road to folk music history.
“Sweet Judy Blue Eyes” is a heartfelt memoir of dreams, love, sex and heartbreak that surrounded the early career of sixties folk icon Judy Collins. Born in Seattle, Washington, Collins entered the music scene at a young age and was encouraged by her first husband to pursue it professionally. Music is in her blood, as her father was a piano player and a baritone, which he eventually segued into a career in radio.
Collins has lived through it all, from the Kennedy assassination to Woodstock, to protesting the Vietnam War. She has survived the tragedies of her life through love, and most importantly, music.
Through a series of good friends, Collins eventually became a regular at clubs like The Exodus, the Gate of Horn and Michael’s Pub. She signed a recording contract with Elektra and produced folk song hits such as “Send in the Clowns” and “Someday Soon.”
Collins’ memoir highlights her lifelong struggle with alcoholism, her sexual escapades, as well as her battle with depression and the loss of the most important man in her life. Collins is an effortless storyteller, as she writes almost casually about meeting President John F. Kennedy for the first time and rubbing elbows with the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.
Most notably is the amount of history that Collins has been a part of. She was there when ABC blacklisted Peter Seeger, she was there during the McCarthy blacklisting and she was there when both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were killed. All of this, again, she casually uses as a background to her life as a folk music icon.
What can’t be overlooked is the graceful soul and unashamed love for music that Collins has. She presents herself very truthfully as a rarity that appreciates both the song and the songwriter. There’s a nostalgia that pushes through her words, a yearning for the days when music moved people to tears, rather than just moved their bodies. Collins made very difficult sacrifices for her career and the battle between the purity of her music and her family is one that lingers for the reader.
Collins lastly brings forward the disparity of her generation, as psychology and suicide were still taboo topics in the sixties. Her fight for her health is also a prominent journey in her memoir.
Collins career spans many top-ten hits, Grammy nominations and the starting of her own music label, Wildflower Records. Even now at the age of 71, Collins is still satisfying her creative calling by writing, speaking, painting and filmmaking.
Best way to find more great content from Neon Tommy?
Or join our email list below to enjoy the weekly Neon Tommy News Highlights.