Judy Collins brought six decades of artistry and musical magic to The Bowery Stage at Winnsboro Center for the Arts Tuesday evening.
A true superstar during the folk music movement in the 1960s and 70s, Collins’ first single was “Wildflowers” on Elektra Records in 1967.
At 77, Collins continues to record and plays more than 100 shows each year.
Her latest record, “Strangers Again,” was released last year and includes duets with a host of male singers, including Jackson Browne, Michael McDonald and Jimmy Buffett.
For the Winnsboro gig, she brought pianist Russell Walden, who handled the 88s like the pro he is and provided tight harmonies on several tunes.
Collins opened the evening with “Chelsea Morning,” a hit for her in 1969, written by Joni Mitchell.
The multi-Grammy-award winner then took a few minutes to chat with the sold-out audience.
“I’m going to take you on a journey,” she said as she proceeded to share parts of her life and career.
The Colorado songbird made her debut as a pianist with the Denver Symphony at age 13.
Her father, a popular Denver DJ, and her piano teacher had big plans for her classical career.
After hearing some folk songs on the radio, however, Collins changed direction, much to her teacher’s chagrin.
“She came to see me at Carnegie Hall and said, ‘Oh, Little Judy, you could have had such a career,’” Collins told the audience at the beginning of the sold-out show.
Throughout the show, Collins made quips, like “We’re Irish. We have Irish Alzheimer’s. You know, we forget everything but the grudges.”
She peppered the set list with several Irish folk tunes, sometimes accompanied by her 12-string guitar and sometimes just going a cappella, her crystalline soprano soaring above the crowd.
She talked about the early days in Denver, when she was part of a trio who took gigs wherever they could find them.
“We played the Kiwanis Club, The Lions Club, the hospital,” she confessed.
She also talked about knowing a struggling folk singer named Bobby Zimmerman, who sometimes stayed at her home. Zimmerman didn’t have much success until he changed his last name to Dylan.
She was at a friend’s house one night in Woodstock, NY, when Dylan was working on a song that would become “Mr. Tamborine Man,” and imagine the crowd’s delight when she asked them to join her in singing the chorus of that iconic tune.
Collins shared Dave Carter’s powerful “When I Go” from the new record. Then, she finished with some of her signature tunes, including “Someday Soon,” “Suzanne,” “The Blizzard,” (while playing the piano), “In My Life,” “Both Sides Now” and closing with “Amazing Grace.”
She may have been the “American Idol of 1957,” but make no mistake about it – Judy Collins continues to be one of America’s most gifted artists. She has long-since mastered the 12-string and when she sat down to play the piano, the keyboard immediately fell under her spell.
Her voice is still near perfection – strong, clear and true, still able to mesmerize.
It was a magical evening the lucky audience will not soon forget.
Sponsors for the evening included BTH Bank, City National Bank, First National Bank, Network Technologies, Peoples Telephone, The Clark House, Ted Beaty Law Firm, JEB originals, Copperleaf Day Spa, Alexander’s Tractor Parts, Monk’s Oven, Wood County Electric Cooperative, Winnsboro Chiropractic, Thee Hubbell House and The Winnsboro News.
Texas Country Ford provided a new Explorer Collins and her entourage used during her visit.