Judy Collins, whom NextTribe is proud to have as an advisory board member and whose inspiring interview was one of the highlights of last October’s rockin’ Out Loud event in New York (don’t forget—there’s one coming up on May 19 in L.A.), is turning 80 on May 1.
Last Saturday night, Judy was feted with an elegant and loving surprise birthday party hosted by her lookalike granddaughter Hollis Taylor. There to celebrate with her were dozens of longtime friends including Gloria Steinem, Joan Baez, Erica Jong, Susan Cheever, and Lyndon B. Johnson biographer Robert Caro. The remembrances of Judy’s generosity, compassion, humor, unbelievable work ethic, and the wisdom that came from her challenges were shared in loving and laugh-filled speeches, including Judy’s own.
Busier Than Ever
Judy has never been so full of vigor, relevance, or creativity. In the last four years, she has put out three albums: Silver Skies Blue was Grammy-nominated; Everybody Knows brought her together dueting and performing with her long-ago love, Stephen Stills; Strangers Again, which features duets with cool guys like Jackson Browne and Willie Nelson, soared to the Billboard heights. And her single, “Dreamers,” beautifully captured the plight of young American immigrants being set upon by a cruel government and continued her tradition of meaningful political protest, which started with her Civil Rights movement activism in the late 1950s.
But now she’s using the marker of the age that women (and men) are “supposed to” be slowing down to a stop and turning it into a jumping off point for one of her greatest creative periods to date. She will be working on two albums, one including a Joni Mitchell song. Judy’s version of Joni’s “Both Sides Now,” of course, is one of the most iconic young female anthems of all time. Songs she has written herself will also be on the album.
She is also embarking on a 29-city tour, from May clear through to November. Twenty nine cities is a lot for a performer half her age, but, to Judy, touring is a way of life—and is invigorating.
Fellow NextTribe advisory board member and writer Sheila Weller had dinner with Judy a few weeks ago and the conversation ranged from the Mueller report to the biography of General Grant that Judy was reading. When Jackie Mason—a relic of a comedic world best represented in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—walked into the restaurant and exchanged affectionate hellos with Judy, it was a fascinating culture clash: One, representing a past that (funny and apt as it may have been in its era) stayed past, the other vibrating an ageless relevance and vibrancy. Guess which one was the female?
Sheila asked Judy the other day what is inspiring and motivating her now. Judy admitted that, “Yes!” she was “cooking on all four burners!” Then she reported that she was taking a poetry class online with Billy Collins. “How thrilling to be in the presence of one of my favorite poets! I think poetry is driving me more than anything today. It’s nice to know that I’m still working, but it’s even better to know that I’m finally writing like a writer!”
Many would think that Judy always wrote “like a writer.” But her enthusiasm to learn and to improve—plus her perspective and humility—are the key here, the key to being energized at 80, or at any age. Brava, Judy. And Happy Birthday.