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Showing 1-10 of 82 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 113 reviews
on August 2, 2015
Although she has written other books, Judy Collins had never written a full autobiography until this book appeared in 2011. It was about time that we had a biography of Judy, who whether in Greenwich Village in the early sixties or Laurel Canyon later on, always seemed to be at the center of things during one of the most musically creative and culturally turbulent times in our history. She writes the book (and she really did write the book; there's no ghost writer) in a clear, almost conversational style, easily readable.

All autobiographies are suspect to some extent, in that you're getting what the subject wants the world to know, but this one seems open and truthful, not portraying its subject as a great heroine, but rather just the stories and details that make up any life, leaving you to decide things. What there is is a guarded sense, a point past which she does not go in explaining just what was going on in her mind at that time, but in a life as busy as hers was we can not be sure she was aware of everything herself. The book starts with her earliest years on the West Coast and then mostly in Colorado, the formative years that led her from singing at family gatherings, to singing in isolated mountain lodges and then a succession of folk clubs that brought her a growing fame and eventually a record contract with Jac Holzman's Elektra. It includes her study under Antonia Brico and her life with first husband, Peter Taylor.

After that, the book focuses on her most creative years from 1961 to the late seventies and is as much about her songs and albums as it is about the other parts of her life. This is of great interest in her case because Judy Collins was a very involved artist, always choosing her material and working with arrangers like Joshua Rifkin and producer Mark Abramson as a virtual co-producer of her albums. We see her growth and development as she goes from interpreter of traditional material to one of the foremost singers of the songs of the new generation of singer-songwriters just coming up, from Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, to Eric Andersen, Phil Ochs, Randy Newman, Donovan and Joni Mitchell.

She knew everyone, and they all appear here. She lived a bohemian life and this was the sixties, so she had lots of relationships with the men, both long-term and brief. There was always a kind of pristine quality to her personna and demeanor, the kind where you might hesitate to offer her anything stronger than herb tea. But she had a genuinely wild side that is a surprising contrast to her image. Judy has always been known as a gracious person and she is king to everyone she writes about. Nowadays it's common for book agents to insist on gossip, dirt and scandal to create controversy to sell the book. It's to her credit that Judy skips over any dirt (and she must know a lot) and remembers the good things about old friends and acquaintances. She was disappointed when Jac Holzman sold Elektra to Warner's without telling anyone, and her relationship with Joni Mitchell was strained, but that's about as far as it goes.

There is one person she is unsparing with and that's herself. Though a professional in every way and always seeming calm and collected, she was often in a state of confusion and depression living a life that was always teetering on total chaos. That was largely because there is a villain in the story, a very long and difficult struggle with alcoholism that ruined times of her life that should have been happy and which was threatening to kill her by the mid seventies. It's hard to imagine, but as she relates, "I could not walk, talk, think or function without a quart of vodka in my system." The last part of the book deals with her final triumph over addiction, a family inheritance that took both her father and her son away.

I can not imagine any fan of Judy Collins, or even anyone interested in sixties music not finding this book interesting. Such a fascinating life at such an amazing time. I only wish she had written more.
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on November 9, 2015
Judy Collins has met everyone who matters, from the '60's and beyond.. The book is studded with names, but the descriptions of the people involved tend to be of a pleasant and brief nature, mostly about how wonderful they all are; it's got the depth of meeting them at a cocktail party. This may be due to the fact that Collins admits she was in an alcoholic haze most of her life ( even though she still managed to knock her career out of the park and somehow seems never to have let her drinking damage her professionalism). While she is very up-front about her addiction and its effect on her life, I was left with the feeling that though confessional about her main problems, the real person slipped away and disappeared every time you tried to grasp her. It ends on a triumphant note--despite the lost relationships, brief affairs, troubled son who eventually commits suicide, she completes the journey sober, creative, and with a strong and lasting relationship.This gives the book a movie-of-the-week quality--yes, I suffered but I have come through. The problem is you'd expect an artist of her caliber to go to more authentic, original, and deeper places.
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on May 20, 2016
Listening to Judy Collins reading her autobiography felt as if I'd been given a gift. She wrote clearly, and far more openly than I would have imagined. She was painfully honest and straightforward. Her beautiful face has always seemed sad and serious on album covers, and now I know why. I never would have guessed that she struggled for many years, but that only makes her pure clear voice more treasured. Sometimes it seemed that she was name dropping, but then, she lived the life and was THERE in Laurel Canyon, in New York City, and performing around the world. She not only met, but was friends and sometimes lovers with many of the great musicians of the day. The brief recitation of lyrics which Judy then sang at the start of each chapter added richness, as did the set of songs at the end. This book touched me deeply.
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on March 27, 2017
I long debated whether to say three stars or four.

I decided three, because I long expected an intensely personal, soul baring journey. And yes, there is some of that ... but there is too much of a recounting of an assistant's diary.

The city, venue and date seems to be the framework of the book. It is exactly what the second, explanatory part of the title says: her life in music. But as someone who first heard her on the radio in Jr. High, the part I wanted to know was Sweet Judy Blue Eyes.

The Judy of Our House, of Song for Martin, of Cook with Honey, of Suite Judy Blue Eyes.

Songs like Bread and Roses, Marieke, Marat Sade, My Father have always had for me such haunting depth and power that i want to know -- have to know -- where it comes from. And it is all my failing, because if the artists had been able to express themselves a different way, they'd have written a different song.

So in the end, in penitence, the stars became four. A little disappointed --or perhaps it would be better said, not really satisfied-- but not at all regretful.
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on July 7, 2016
I loved reading this memoir, journeying nack to the years of folk music that meant so much to me. I hadn't remembered that Judy Collins was so politically active, and it was inspiring to read about her testimony fir the Chicago Seven. Her struggles with alcohol and with tragedy are bravely told. Judy Collins's music was often a comfort to me in hard times, and a joy at any time, so reading jer book was like a comversation with an old friend. The honesty and strong writing throughout this beautiful memoir make reading it an absorbing and moving experience
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on December 4, 2015
Interesting life... Interesting book. If your interested in the 60's folk and early folk/rock beginnings this is a book for you. Being a fan of music from this time it made me wish I was there. A time when the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez etc were starting out before superstardom locked them away from the smaller intimate club scene. I was able to catch a small taste of that a miss it dearly. The large venue/stadium shows are not compatible with their music. if your not a true fan of this style of music i don't think you would enjoy this book and find it just a series of "name dropping" encounters.
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on November 26, 2013
I've been reading a lot of musician biographies lately, and I was surprised to find that with the exception of a couple over-the-top exceptions like David Crosby, Judy Collins spent the 60s and 70s as screwed up as any of them. Her apologia for her alcoholism is ever-present in this memoir, to the extend one wonders how she was able to function at all. Yet beneath that haze beats the heart of a strong yet modest and genuine human being, not to mention a prodigious talent. I find it telling that other artists in their own memoirs reference her generosity, her earth-mother status among her peers, the intelligence and magnetism that created a kind of latter-day Chautauqua of musicians in her drawing room. She is never self-congratulatory about her largesse and benevolence -- scarcely mentions it, in fact -- which in itself speaks volumes about her sincerity.

It's ironic that she pretty much wraps up her story about the time she gets sober and finds the love of her life, even though her career stretches on for decades. There's a lot more color to be mined from crises than composure, it seems.

In sum, a good read that significantly altered my perception of Judy Collins as a person and professional.
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on January 5, 2016
Very interesting read. A story that tells about love and addictions. The daughter of a blind alcoholic. Alcohol addiction does seem to be an inherited trait. Judy fought it most of her life but managed to have a successful career. After many lovers it was nice to read that she has found happiness and was able to find peace without drinking. Unfortunately her only son also suffered from addictions. She made many wonderful recordings.
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on July 16, 2016
Judy Collins is one of the pioneers of the folk music scene and this was a very good read about her early days in music. It ended somewhat abruptly so it may be that she will write a sequel.
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on April 4, 2014
Maybe I am out of it, but I never knew Judy was an alcoholic...all those years of singing and she was drunk all the time. What a waste for her to have lived that way and missed enjoying the ride. She seems very open about it all, but to me was a little bit still blaming others and not enough blaming herself. I was hoping she would take more of the blame for the Stills relationship. But she has a wonderful voice and still going strong. Interesting to read and she is a good writer.
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