Judy Collins facts: Folk singer's age, songs, husband, children and career explained

18 August 2023, 12:53

Judy Collins in 1979
Judy Collins in 1979. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Judy Collins is a legendary singer-songwriter and musician who has been captivating audiences with her sublime vocals and poignant lyrics for over seven decades.

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From folk to pop, from show tunes to rock and roll, Judy Collins has explored a variety of genres and styles, always with a distinctive voice and a passion for social justice.

She has also been a pioneer in bringing other singer-songwriters to a wider audience, such as Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Randy Newman.

Judy has won several awards and honours, including a Grammy Award, an Academy Award nomination, and induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame. She is also a filmmaker, a record label head, a musical mentor, and an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention.

  1. How old is Judy Collins?

    Judy Collins Performs At Union Chapel, London in 2020
    Judy Collins Performs At Union Chapel, London in 2020. Picture: Getty

    Judy Collins was born on May 1, 1939 in Seattle, Washington. She celebrated her 84th birthday in 2023.

    Her birth name is Judith Marjorie Collins, and her parents were Charles Thompson Collins and Marjorie Collins. Her father was a blind singer, pianist, and radio show host. Her mother was a homemaker and nurse.

    She has four younger siblings: two brothers and two sisters. Their names are Denver, Holly, Susan, and Patrick. She grew up in Denver, Colorado, where her family moved when she was ten years old.

  2. How did Judy Collins get her start in music?

    Judy Collins Singing on Stage
    Judy Collins Singing on Stage. Picture: Getty

    Judy Collins got started in music at a very young age. She was born into a musical family and showed a talent for playing the piano. She studied classical music and performed Mozart’s 'Concerto for Two Pianos' when she was 13 years old.

    However, she was also drawn to the folk music that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. She listened to artists like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Jo Stafford, and Barbara Allen. She learned to play the guitar and started singing folk songs in coffeehouses and clubs.

    In 1961, she signed a contract with Elektra Records, which gave her artistic freedom to choose her own material. She recorded her first album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, which featured traditional folk songs.

    She soon gained recognition for her clear voice and expressive interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, and others.

  3. What are Judy Collins' most famous songs?

    JUDY COLLINS - "Send In The Clowns" with Boston Pops 1976

    Some of her most famous songs are:

    • 'Send in the Clowns': This is a song from the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, written by Stephen Sondheim. Collins recorded it for her 1975 album Judith and won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. It also became her highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 19 in 1977.
    • 'Amazing Grace': This is a traditional Christian hymn, with lyrics written by John Newton in 1772. Collins recorded it for her 1970 album Whales & Nightingales and released it as a single in 1971. It became a worldwide hit, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the UK Singles Chart.
    • 'Someday Soon': This is a song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Ian Tyson in the early 1960s. Collins recorded it for her 1968 album Who Knows Where the Time Goes and released it as a single in 1969.

    JUDY COLLINS - "Amazing Grace" with the Boston Pops Orchestra 1976

    • 'Farewell to Tarwathie': This is a traditional Scottish whaling song that Collins recorded for her 1968 album Whales & Nightingales. She sang it a cappella, accompanied by the sounds of humpback whales, which she had heard on a record by biologist Roger Payne. The song is a poignant farewell from a sailor to his beloved, who must leave her to join a whaling expedition.
    • 'My Father': This is a song written by Collins herself for her 1968 album Who Knows Where the Time Goes. It is a tribute to her father, Charles Collins, who was a blind singer, pianist, and radio show host. The song describes the bond between father and daughter, and the stories and dreams he shared with her.
  4. Is Judy Collins married and does she have children?

    Judy Collins and her husband Louis Nelson
    Judy Collins and her husband Louis Nelson. Picture: Getty

    Judy Collins has been married twice in her life. Her first marriage was to Peter Taylor, a writer and director, from 1958 to 1965.

    They had a son together, named Clark C Taylor, who was born in 1959.

    Her second marriage is to Louis Nelson, a designer and activist, whom she married in 1996. They had been in a relationship since 1979.

    Judy Collins also had some romantic relationships with other famous musicians and actors, such as Stephen Stills and Stacy Keach.

    Collins is the subject of the Stephen Stills song 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes', which appeared on the 1969 debut studio album of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

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