Like boats across the Seine
And watch the Paris sun
As it sets in my father's eyes again.”—Judy Collins, “My Father,” from her LP, Who Knows Where the Time Goes? (1968)
A year and a half ago, I was lucky enough to see Judy Collins in concert with Jimmy Webb at BergenPAC in my hometown of Englewood, NJ. (See my review here.) Having heard her sing a few times in the Seventies, at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park, I was delighted that her magnificent voice remained undimmed by the years.
Judy Blue Eyes (immortalized on vinyl, of course, by onetime lover Stephen Stills) turns 75 today. As she has moved along into the further stages of her life, she has increasingly come to terms with lost loved ones.
The night I saw her at BergenPAC, she performed a haunting version of “My Father,” only the third song she had ever written herself, about her dad, a blind radio DJ who exposed her to all kinds of music, including Rodgers and Hart’s “Where or When,” the Irish tune “The Kerry Dancer” and Stan Jones’ “Ghost Riders in the Sky” (all performed that nigh, toot). From her father, she inherited a taste for alcohol and an inclination toward depression passed, in turn, on to her only son, who committed suicide in 1992.
Collins wrote of these struggles in her memoirs Sanity and Grace and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music. The heartaches in her life continue, of course—events that tragic scar the heart—but her current triumph is a reminder that the faith to endure can carry one home.