For anybody of the baby-boom generation, the name Judy Collins is enough to make the eyes mist over.
Her crystalline voice gave the music of the ‘60s and the ‘70s a sorely needed beauty and purity. She was never a chart-topping superstar, but her influence was vital, in a surprising number of ways:
In her early career, she helped give folk music respect by performing it with formal discipline. Her classical training resulted in dignified and pure versions of such songs as “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “Maid of Constant Sorrow.”
She championed some of the best songwriters of the ‘60s, and not just the already notorious ones such as Bob Dylan. She recorded songs by such unknowns as Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman, and she gave Joni Mitchell her first big success as a songwriter with “Both Sides Now.”
She gave instant cachet to the “art song.” Her albums were full of songs by the likes of Jacques Brel and Kurt Weill.
She was one of the first pop musicians of the ‘60s to unabashedly embrace country music and to use country session musicians. Her classic 1968 album, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” included the great rodeo-cowboy ballad, “Someday Soon.”
She single-handedly showed the world in the 1970s that the musical theater (all but dismissed by pop audiences for the preceding decade) had songs worth listening to. To this day, her ethereal version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” is the one of the few Sondheim songs most Americans have ever heard.
Her version of “Amazing Grace” in 1971 helped make that 200-year-old hymn one of the best-known hymns ever. Her version actually made the Billboard Top 20.
And finally, she was the inspiration for the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Stephen Stills was apparently quite smitten with the blue-eyed Collins when he wrote that song.
And Judy Collins has continued as a beacon of taste in many areas of the arts. She produced an Oscarnominated documentary, “Antonia: The Portrait of a Woman,” about her music teacher in Denver, where she was raised.
She has written a book called “Amazing Grace” about the hymn, its history, and her involvement with it. She also has written “Trust Your Heart,” her autobiography. And she has recorded two albums of lullabies for children.
Her appearance on Saturday with the Spokane Symphony will include both her older songs and her newer ones. She has no set repertoire; she will announce her selections from the stage.
The first half of the concert will feature the orchestra conducted by Stefan Kozinski. It will open with Kozinski’s own arrangement of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and continue with Sondheim’s “Dances from ‘Pacific Overtures”’. Also on the program will be Borodin’s “Nocturne for Strings” and Richard Hayman’s “Pops Hoedown.”
MEMO: This sidebar ran with story: Spokane Symphony SuperPops with Judy Collins Location and time: Opera House, Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $25 at the symphony box office, 624-1200, and G&B;