Judy Collins: the frank and fearless folk legend on touring at 80, art and activism, and making Leonard Cohen famous

Mar 02, 2020, 07:00 AM

The frank, funny and fearless folk legend looks back at her career, from Greenwich Village's 1960s folk scene to now, at 80, as she continues to tour worldwide, and discusses everything from acid trips gone awry to what she really thinks of Bob Dylan.

Judy Collins is a folk music legend, with a career spanning six decades, from the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene to California, as the Flower Power movement took root, to now, at 80, still gigging hard every year with her guitar. 

Judy is what The New York Times called a “master song collector”. She is celebrated for reinterpreting other people’s tracks, with an eclecticism that comes from her father, who was a blind radio DJ, singer and pianist. Notably, she covered Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne and Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, making both of their careers.

In the first episode of The Last Bohemians series two, Judy talks about the importance of art and activism, such as the time she signed a statement declaring she’d had an abortion, in her friend Gloria Steinem’s Ms Magazine – a year before it was made legal in America. 

Frank and funny, she recalls former lovers like Stephen Stills, getting mixtapes from Leonard Cohen, and going tattoo shopping with Antony Bourdain's mum, but also surviving the darkness of the hippie era, and the demons she’s battled along the way.

Trigger warning: this episode contains themes of addiction and suicide, and so listener discretion is advised.

This episode was presented by Kate Hutchinson and produced by Shola Aleje, with intro music by Emmy The Great.