Judy Collins sings “The Fisherman Song,” which she wrote when she was summering in Amagansett years ago, as she talks about her upcoming gig at the Suffolk Theater. She’ll perform at the historic Riverhead venue on Friday, July 31, at 8 p.m., with a second show added by popular demand on Saturday, August 1, at 7 p.m. Her crystal clear, pristinely spiritual voice gives audiences chills.
“I’m going to sing it at the show,” she says. “I love the Hamptons. I’ve been going out there since 1963… I think it’s the jewel of the East Coast. I love Montauk, I have vacationed at Gurney’s, and I love the whole Long Island scene.” And if ticket sales are any indication, Long Island loves her back.
Collins, 76, whose career has spanned over 50 years, released her first album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, in 1961, but it was her recording of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” that catapulted her to fame. She has been filling auditoriums around the world ever since, captivating longtime fans as well as those who have recently discovered her music.
With four Grammy Awards, four gold and two platinum albums to her name, Collins is still working. A new album is scheduled for release on September 18. “It goes into new and classic material,” she says. “I keep writing my own songs and I will be singing a brand new song of mine when I sing in Riverhead.”
On what drives her career, Collins says, “I make a living performing. That’s essential: to be an artist, to be independent…that has been my goal since I was a little girl. I consider it a tremendous success and triumph that I have been doing what I want and have been able to make a living at it right up to this moment. It’s a total privilege. It is a service,” she says. “I come from a line of folks on my mother’s side who were preachers and writers. I have a mission that has to do with people, allowing them to be vulnerable to music, to help them survive the difficult things I have had to deal with.”
To protect her body and voice, Collins is vigilant about her nutrition. “I eat three meals a day. I don’t snack. I don’t eat between meals. I don’t eat grains, sugar or flour. And I don’t eat junk.”
She is outraged by the epidemic of eating disorders and obesity. “It’s not just that [people] are fat, they are sick. It’s a disaster. It’s a calamity in this country and it has to be addressed.” Still incredibly beautiful, she believes “exercise is the fountain of youth. Without it we are operating without proper attention to the machinery we have been given…I can’t afford to let these things slow me down or turn me around.”
But back to the music: “Politics come and go and issues come and go, but…a classic song is forever,” she says. Her favorite? “‘Amazing Grace’ is particularly powerful. Everyone joins in and sings it. I have started to sing it more often because it is so important with all the racial tension that is going on.” The political is still married to the music.
And speaking of marriage, Collins has been married to Louis Nelson for 19 years, but they have been together for 37. What is her secret? “Patience, forgiveness, don’t go to sleep mad. And the phrase ‘You might be right.’” Preach!
For tickets ($45–$60) to the Judy Collins shows at Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, Friday, July 31, and Saturday, August 1, visit suffolktheater.com.