By John Benson
Judy Collins is here to tell you she’s not ancient history.
The famed ’60s singer, who emerged out of the Greenwich Village scene to become one of the most cherished folk singers of her era, recently celebrated 50 years of performance with a special concert in front of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s magnificent Temple of Dendur.
The entire evening was captured as a PBS concert that began airing last month. Overall, Collins admits it was a pretty special evening.
“It’s a great place to sing and an extraordinary space,” Collins said. “Something we loved about it was that it’s so different. It was good to do old things, classic Judy Collins, and brand-new things. My guests were interesting. I love Jimmy Webb, and I’ve worked with him more than once and sang a number of his songs. Ani DiFranco was a new guest for me, but we got along fine. And Shawn Colvin and I did a duet.”
Collins jokes that she decided not to dress like Nefertiti or Cleopatra, but she did travel down memory lane playing her career-defining songs such as “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell) and “Send in the Clowns” (Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music”).
Despite an evening spent looking back, Collins remains fiercely focused on the future. This is evident with her recently released studio effort, “Bohemian,” which includes songs such as her mother-inspired “In The Twilight,” Woody Guthrie track “Pastures of Plenty” and Kenny White duet ‘The Veteran’s Day.”
At a time when other artists of her era are hanging up their need to record new material and touring on their laurels, the 73-year-old Collins won’t follow suit.
“That’s not my style,” Collins said. “I’ll always be writing new material because that’s what I do. And that’s what I will do.”
There’s an obvious feistiness to Collins, who for decades acted as an inspiration for aspiring singer-songwriters. In fact, that continues today. She points to contemporary pop-country artist Taylor Swift as being someone who is continuing on the lineage of being an independent-minded artist.
“I broke ground; I recorded anything I wanted to; I wrote songs and write songs,” Collins said. “I have a career that has sustained and is going forward at 50 years. I have an audience that’s built over decades. I have a presence in the culture, and I think that all lends itself to people who are looking forward to their own lives and say, ‘Well, if somebody can do it, I think I’ll try it, too.’”
Up next for Collins are two additional PBS specials and more touring. She proudly stated her itinerary includes 120 shows a year with no sign of slowing down. Collins has booked a Friday show at Stambaugh Auditorium.
Perhaps the only thing missing from her career is an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. When asked if she has any idea why that call hasn’t come yet, Collins’ shoots back, “I have no clue. Why don’t you ask them? This is under the heading of ‘Who Cares?’ That certainly doesn’t define me or my career.”