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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: Sweet Judy Blue Eyes

Judy Collins' latest autobiography, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music, begins in 1969 and with her affair with Steven Stills, then flashes back to the 1950s. As with Miss Collins' lyrics, the writing is saturated with romantic imagery. This does not necessarily mean she is above the banal as when she describes her love-at-first-sight meeting with Mr Stills: "Then his eyes found mine, and we gazed at each other, transfixed." Or when she writes, somewhat ungrammatically, of Michelle Phillips: "We once took acid together, and even then she looked and spoke in a charming and loving manner." But I love Judy's gossipy little perceptions of those around her as she recalls her Greenwich Village-beatnik and L.A.-hippie heydays.

On Joni Mitchell: "She smoked like a chimney...;" "Joni can be touchy and sometimes distant, but all of us have complicated lives." (Joan Crawford couldn't have said it better.) Of Joan Baez, described as a politically conscious clothes-horse, Judy observes: " I don't think Joan ever wore a pair of Levis unless she was cleaning out the barn." Luckily, for my reading pleasure, Judy knows how to slip a bitchy zinger in amongst the sweet talk and lush iconography.

On Janis Joplin: "We did not know each other well, and she could not have known how much I was drinking. But it has been my experience that a drunk can spot a drunk a mile away." Straight out of Jacqueline Susann, Judy describes her alcohol and pill-popping (uppers and downers, babies!), against the background of the pop music world, that eventually land her in rehab. "...[B]loated and sweating, even in the cool of the Pennsylvania morning. I could not walk, talk, think, or function without a quart of vodka in my system," she recalls. A quart!

Judy also discusses her son, Clark's, addictions and his own depression, leading up to his suicide in 1984, in passages that come across as anguished and earnestly heartbreaking.

I've always been a big fan of Ms Collins' albums. There is a discography at the back of the book. Collins feels mislabeled as "folksinger" and she is correct to feel that way. Starting with the In My Life album, I would say, she blossomed into a unique type of artist; a sophisticated and idyllic balladeer for a modern generation with an impeccable choice of material.

Miss Collins is now 72. In Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, she looks at life from both sides now and tells you her view of what it was like living a charmed yet troubled one, trying to find closure in the process and evoking, through a glass darkly, images of a pop music Camelot past. It is published by Crown Archetype. I purchased my copy at Rainbows & Triangles in NYC; also available at Barnes & Noble, through Amazon, or wherever fine literature is sold.


  1. I read her first memoir and loved it! She is still very underrated for all she's done. You've survived so much, Judy Blue Eyes! Tell it like it is!

  2. Yes. Dissed by the Woodstock coordinators and by Joni Mitchell. The gall!

  3. I would love to read this. Sounds wonderful. Thanks for the review. Jade

  4. dj buddy beaverhausenOctober 26, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    I forgot to mention in the above piece that Judy has a new album, "Bohemian," out November 11.