Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Judy Collins saved my life in high school. Of course, she didn't learn that until many years later.
When I finally met Judy Collins face-to-face, she looked a lot like this, with lots of miles both behind her and ahead, and wearing the bloom of a newlywed bride.
In high school, I survived by playing her albums, endlessly. Colors of the Day, Whales and Nightingales, The Best of, Judith. Sure, I listened to Joni Mitchell, too. And Carly Simon. But I was immersed in the life and music and words and wildflowers and mountains and dreams of Judy Collins, whether singing Leonard Cohen's lyrical magic or her own original semi-autobiographical folksongs. I can still sit down to a piano and play "My Father" from memory.
Carol Crockett and I used to sing "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" as a duet in high school, on long hours sitting in the back of a bus on school trips, or in the band room during choir practice. We always vowed we'd sing it at each other's weddings, wearing long gauzy dresses blowing in the breeze and flowers tucked in long flowing hair. We didn't.
But many years later, I was sitting in a hotel ballroom in central Wisconsin sharing wedding pictures with Judy Collins. And I presented her with my very well worn copy of her Judy Collins Songbook, dogeared and well travelled and practically memorized, still with wildflowers and notes falling out of the pages, for her to sign. She was visibly moved that I'd hung onto it all those years, and that it had meant that much to me. She'd come as the guest of Dave Obey, our local congressman who's a family friend, to speak about political issues. She signed my book.
I told her Carol Crockett had signed the back of her high school picture to me, "Judy Forever."
Never did I imagine that when we'd finally meet, it would be like a couple of schoolgirls sharing wedding pictures.
But it was.