Talking Story With Judy Collins


Singer-songwriter and folk music icon Judy Collins will be returning to the Big Island for one concert on Saturday, January 5, 2019, at the Honoka’a People’s Theatre (ticket info below).

Collins has inspired audiences with sublime vocals, boldly vulnerable songwriting, personal life triumphs, and a firm commitment to social activism. In the 1960s, she evoked both the idealism and steely determination of a generation united against social and environmental injustices. Five decades later, her luminescence shines as new generations bask in the glow of her iconic 50-album body of work, and heed inspiration from her discipline to thrive in the music industry for half a century.

I caught up with Ms. Collins at her home in New York.

Aloha. We’re all looking forward to your show in January at the Honoka’a People’s Theatre.

It’ll be warm there. Right? Promise me.

It’s been actually very comfortable in the mid-70s with a nice tropical breeze. We’ve turned off the lava valve, so the vog is gone, and the sunsets are spectacular! 

I’m looking forward to it.

The last time you played the Big Island we had a false missile alert. What type of fanfare are you bringing with you this time?

 Oh, my God! Yes, I remember that. I was in the car driving to the airport, and I heard the report on the radio. And, we said, ‘Well let’s just go to the airport as we planned.’ I will certainly be doing some new songs and I’ll be talking about the stories in my life and we’ll see what happens.

Are these tours of Hawaii becoming a regular event for you?

They seem to be. I have a promoter out there that seems to love me, and I do well, so it’s a good break for me and makes me very happy to be there.

Are you bringing any musicians with you this time?

It’s just Russell Walden and me… he’s my musical director. We do a pretty resounding show.

Tell me about your recent single “Dreamers.”

I wrote it when I was watching television one afternoon, and a young woman was talking about the fact that her mother was an immigrant, and that she is a “dreamer,” and that she was going to have to leave the country. She was pretty sure she was going to get thrown out. And of course, the song resonates for the whole issue of immigration here. And people are responding very positively to it. It’s all about where we’re at. I mean it’s not just our problem, but in a sense, we have a bigger responsibility because everybody’s an immigrant in this country.

Most countries have some natural population who established the inhabitation… whether it’s in land or out land. But we have everybody came here from somewhere else except the American Indians. And I’m not so sure about them. We’re in a peculiar position to not behave badly, but to show the way and solve issues and make it possible to maintain our historic welcome to the stranger, the newcomer. And we just have to learn how to do that. We have to resolve ourselves to get over it.

One of our readers wants to know if you ever crossed paths with Jimi Hendrix?

1967 Rheingold Festival concert ad

 I did a big fundraiser concert in New York, but in fact, it’s historic in another way. Jimi Hendrix and I were on the same bill at the 1967 Rheingold Festival [Central Park, New York]. That’s the concert that I brought Leonard Cohen to the show and told him he had to sing “Suzanne” by himself. I had already recorded “Suzanne,” and it was a big hit, and everybody loved it. And I insisted that he go out. I pushed him on stage to sing it. Of course, he said, “I can’t sing, and I’m never gonna sing publicly because my voice is so terrible.” and I said, “No, it’s not terrible, and it’s quite wonderful.” He went out on stage, and started singing the song, and in the middle, he burst into tears and walked off the stage. I made him go back and finished the song with him.

And that in itself was memorable because it was the first time he sang in public. From then on, he sang his own songs. Originally, he wanted others to sing his own songs. He said he wanted to write for the artists, but then realized he was the artist. [laughs]

What projects or tours are in store for you in 2019?

Well, I’ve just finished 115 shows with Stephen Stills, as you may know. We just finished that up a couple of weeks ago, and we’re going to put that to bed because we need to give it a rest.  We’ll go back in 2020, probably. The coming year I have some concerts with a group called the Chatham County Line. They’re from Raleigh, North Carolina. We’re recording in February, and will go out at the end of the summer… touring Europe and the U.S. There are some other pairings that I’ll do. So, it’ll be a big year.

Mahalo for your time, and we’re all looking forward to your show in January at the Honoka’a People’s Theatre. We’ll save some good weather for you.

It was a pleasure, and I look forward to seeing you.

If You Go

What: Judy Collins with Russell Walden in concert
When: Saturday, January 5, 2019. Doors: 6:00 p.m. Show: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Honokaa People’s Theatre, 45-3574 Mamane St. Honokaa
Info:Venue: 808-896-4845
Admission: General: $50. Gold Circle: $75.
Tickets: Kona Music Exchange – Kailua Kona; Kiernan Music – Old Town Kainaliu; Waimea General Store – Parker Square, Kamuela; Top Stitch – Honoka’a; Hilo Ukulele & Guitar, Hilo Music Exchange, Hilo.
Online purchase:—2019

To learn more about folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins and her 2019 touring schedule, check out her official homepage.

Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.

Read our review of the 2018 Judy Collins’ concert here:


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