Fans of folk and fans of Judy Collins’s exceptional, smooth as glass voice, will be thrilled to know that she’s coming to Olympia. The Washington Center for the Performing Arts welcomes the Grammy Award-winning folk music artist for a one-night performance on February 25. The Olympia show is part of a nearly year-long tour, one that not only crosses the United States coast to coast but one that jumps the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and makes a number of stops in Europe. Collins brings audience favorites, songs from her newest album “Spellbound” and likely a few stories to tell in between.
Collins’s performance on the Washington Center Main Stage is one that will allow people to glimpse into an artist’s lifetime of creations. A musical prodigy since childhood, Collins debuted as a classical pianist when she was just 13 years old. Not long after, she began playing guitar. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie were early influences, and folk music flows throughout her music career. Her first album, “A Maid of Constant Sorrow” in 1961, includes “Sailor’s Life,” her rendition of an English folksong from the 18th century. She has recorded albums producing her interpretations of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and other iconic folk singers’ songs. In 1967, her “Wildflowers” album included two hits written by Joni Mitchell that resounded with the listening world, “Both Sides Now” and “Michael from Mountains.” Another attention-getter was her 1975 album “Judith,” which included “Send in the Clowns.” The 1960s and 70s proved to be a time in which Collins began to make a big influence on the music scene. Over the course of her career, she has gone on to release an astounding 55 albums.
Collins’s works have earned her much recognition. She has been nominated for a Grammy Award six times and awarded the win in 1968 for “Best Folk Performance” with “Both Sides Now.” Collins first learned of “Both Sides Now,” through a phone call from a friend who put Joni Mitchell on the line to sing what she had written. The song has been placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame, an entrance reserved for songs of “lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25-years-old,” according to Grammy.com. “Inductees are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts.” After all of her outward honoring and performing of many folk artists’ songs, she has been honored back by other artists in “Born to the Breed: A Tribute to Judy Collins.” Artists Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Dolly Parton, Shawn Colvin, Rufus Wainwright and others perform Collins hits on the album.
How enriching it will be to take in this night. Her lilting voice and songs full of poetic lyrics touch heartstrings and emotions, but don’t discount her wit. “I’m funny,” says the Grammy-winning artist. “People don’t expect that. I tell stories about my life, and I have a backlog of stories that I launch into that make you laugh.” Audiences will be entertained with the lively stories drawing from five decades of performing and working with other musicians.
Though born in Seattle, Washington, she and her family moved to Los Angeles and then Denver, Colorado. She spent her formative teenage years on ranches in the mountains, riding horses. “If you had that in your life,” expresses Collins who finds it very romantic to grow up around mountains, “you know there’s nothing like being at five or six thousand feet.” Olympia patrons do indeed understand the allure and awe of having mountains on the surrounding horizon.
In addition to her talents as a musician, singer and songwriter, Collins has authored quite a few books. She has written her memoirs, and she has written books about healing. Overcoming and persevering through challenging times in life has not only moved her to write but to also be a speaker about mental health and suicide prevention. She is also a music mentor and the head of a record label. Even podcast host can be added to the list with her new “Since You’ve Asked” podcast that launched in 2021.
Backed by diverse experiences, an impressive music career and a drive for creativity, her performance is sure to be one that is heartfelt, a demonstration of mesmerizing and rhythmic songs and message. “I would like to have them take away something that lifts their spirits,” says Collins of her upcoming audience. “I just want them to feel good and have a good time.”
To join in the evening of February 25, check out the Washington Center for the Performing Arts website for An Evening with Judy Collins tickets. Prices range from $25 to $79. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.