A new story from Broken Record

Broken Record


Sing? Songs like and winter sky and rambling boy and all these other great songs, you sing in the same cave, which a lot of performers over the years have to lower it. So what do you do with your voice that allows you to do that? Well, today I sat down and practiced the piano and sang. Did some exercises that I was taught by my teacher and if there is a secret, it is what max margolis taught me, which is that everything is about clarity and phrasing. If you listen to a singer and you understand the words, it goes a long way to proving that they're singing well. If you don't, maybe not so much. And my whole purpose in life is to tell the stories so that they can be understood. I know some people who have, let's say, rugged voices, they're charming, but the real challenge is to keep telling the stories and telling them understandably. You mentioned max margolis. He was your vocal coach? Yes. When did you start with him? I started with him in 1965. You know, it was a pianist, trained pianist. I sang in the choirs in the courses, but when I got stretched out on the road after 61, when I began to make records and have to travel all over the world, I would lose my voice all the time. And so by 1965, it was clear that I had to do something about it. And I didn't know anybody in New York who would do that. I mean, my friends who were the folk music community, nobody was taking singing lessons. That's for sure. So I called Harry Belafonte and has somebody who worked with him and said, oh, Harry says you have to talk to his guitarist, ray bogoslav, and you have to call ray because ray knows about these things. So I called ray bogoslav, and he said, well, there's only one person that would be worthwhile to work with and his name is max margolis. So I wrote his phone number down, and so at the end of the summer, I was in my apartment on the upper west side, and I picked up the piece of paper with the phone number on it, which I had kept. And I called this number. And this man answered, and I said, who I was. And I told him who had recommended him. And we talked for a little bit, and I said, I'd really like to come and see you and see if you can help me out with this problem. And he said, what do you do? And I told him, and he said, oh, I'm not interested. You people are not serious. Folks. I said, oh, trust me, I'm serious. And I begged, and pleaded. And finally, he said, all right, he said, will spend a little time together. You can come and see me. And I said, well, that's wonderful. But where do you live? And he told me, and I walked out my front door on the 8th floor of one 64 west 79. And I turned right and walked past the elevator and rang his bell. He didn't tell. He didn't expect you quite so soon. No. That's how right on these two folks were that I'm obviously it was karmic. And it was meant. And then I studied with him for 32 years until he died. And the last thing he said to me at Roosevelt hospital when he was dying was don't worry. As long as you know that it's clarity and phrasing, you're going to be fine. How do you practice clarity and phrasing? Well, you think about clarity about the words, you know, my husband will say to me, you've got to be clearer on that song. You know, it's a new song and you're not finding your way into it. It's not understandable to me. So that'll do it. Every time. We'll be right back with more from Judy Collins after a quick break. In each season of what had happened was, open Mike eagle highlights a legendary creator in hip hop to discuss their life impact and their legacy. Season three is out now and focuses on legendary hip hop A&R slash producer, Dante Ross. The two unpack his journey in hip hop when the culture started becoming more mainstream in 1980s New York City. Dante goes from being a witness to the explosion to working alongside of some of the genres essential artists, including his friends from the punk scene, the Beastie Boys. Subscribe to what had happened was on your favorite podcast platform today. Hi, I'm Gloria Adam, host of well read black girl. Each week I sit in close conversation with one of my favorite authors of color. And share stories about how they found their voice. Honed their craft and navigated the publishing world in composed some of the most beautiful and meaningful words I've ever read. We journeyed together through the cultural moment where art, culture, and literature collide, and pay homage to the women whose books we grew up reading. And of course, I check in with members of the well read black girl book club. It's the literary kickback you never knew you needed. And you're all invited to join the club. So tell your Friends to tell their friends so we can be friends who love books. Listen to well read black girl wherever you get your podcast. And subscribe to pushkin plus. To receive exclusive bonus episodes. Sign up on the well read black girl show page in Apple podcasts or at pushkin dot FM. We're back with the rest of Bruce's conversation with Judy Collins. One of the things reading your autobiography that I found fascinating, you lived in the upper west side, but you were really part of the Greenwich Village scene. And how quickly you got to know seemingly everybody when you had trouble with your voice, you phoned Harry Belafonte. What was it about the village at that point? I know there were a lot of talented people there, but everybody seemed to intersect so many times. Was it a small community? Was it that everybody was drinking together or what was it that made it so, so connected? You know, when you think of the village, it's a very small area of physical area. It's only a few blocks. You would think of it as this huge place, and yes, we drank together, it was very much a social club, but when I got to the village, it was 1961, and there was a kind of a word of mouth around the whole country. The people ran the clubs would say, to another person who ran a club in Chicago, maybe she sold tickets. And they would hire me. I was there for 6 weeks at a time, or sometimes a month and a half, two months in that way the venues got to know that you were doing business. So they would hire you. And I went to New York for the first time since I was a teenager. I went to Greenwich Village, and I was the opener. I was the headliner at gerty's folk city in April of 19 61. Dylan had been when he was called Robert Zimmerman. He had been in Denver, and he was hanging out there. He was homeless there. He was sleeping on the couches of people who sang at the exodus, which is a club that I sang in, I opened for bob Gibson, who discovered Joan Baez, and then he called Jack holzman and said, I think I found your Joan bias. It was a very tiny community, although we were stretched out very thin all over the country, but that's really the way it was. The night that I opened, as the headliner, at girty's folks, everybody was there that I had ever seen in the record stores and Pete Seeger was there and Peter Paul you were there and Dave red and rock was there and ramblin Jack Elliott was there because my opener was 13 year old named Arlo Guthrie. So they had come to see what woody's kid was going to do. And I've known Arnold for 60 years. I was fascinated that this sort of dominant, slightly fearsome character for you when you went there was Joan Baez, wasn't Bob Dylan, he was still a kid, Joan was the one that everybody kind of gravitated to. And she seemed to be the charismatic one. Oh, and she became a friend very early on in her sister. I was embedded with this group of people, including people like Phil ochs, who one day, he knew that I was recording in the heat of the summer, was wonderful song by him, and so he knew I was going to be recording that month in 64, and so he brought Eric Anderson over. I didn't know Eric at all. So he brought him over and Eric brushed me aside, raced to the bedroom, sat down, finished writing the words to the song and then came back and sang me thirsty boots. And I said, oh, that's great. I'll record that tomorrow too. So things like that were always happening. It's just they seem to happen so rapidly. That's right. Oh, Dennis, husband was my manager for a while. I don't know if you know that. I didn't know that. But you guys played a very particular role, which you don't find in pop music anymore. Before you started writing, you were almost like the curators of what was happening. You sang Dylan songs before Dylan was popular, and he wouldn't have had a career without. John Baez. And Odetta saying everybody's songs. Yeah. You became this interpreter of these songwriters, people hadn't really heard of. And I want to just talk about a few of them. Because the list is so impressive. How did you first meet Ian and Sylvia? Well, they were recording for Electra. And they were charming. They had a place in the village. And you know, electro was a family. And Jack Olson and his wife, Nina. She used to do these big parties when you had a concert somewhere. And we'd meet everybody where I'd go to hear Ian and Sylvia saying somewhere at some club or I'd go hang out at the gaslight and listen to Dave and rock and there would be Phil ochs singing and Peter lafarge. There was always something going on. I listened to the songs and I would pluck out the ones that I knew would work for me. And I went to see Dylan and it must have been 62. It was very early on. It was town hall. And he sang masters of war and I just flipped out and also fare thee well. And I said, I have to record this guy. So then I came back to the east and moved straight into the village as where I knew I had to be. I just had to be there. In a way, everybody found a way to get into that recording studio was electorate and make a record. Sometimes they didn't stay all that long, I did, but I did get to know people because of that because that social life that kind of swirled around Nina and Jack holzman. And how did you meet Leonard Cohen? You may be the only person not to have had an affair with Leonard Cohen. Yes, I'm the only person who didn't. Yes. The only girl in the room left standing. I had a couple of friends. Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner were friends of mine in those old days in the village. And I had a friend named Linda gottlieb and she and I and Mary Martin would have dinner. The four or 5 of us would have dinner. Mary Martin worked for Warner Brothers, and she was a Canadian, and we would go out to dinner and she would talk about her life in Canada, and she would talk about this guy. Named Leonard, and she would say Leonard's a wonderful poet, and we all love him. We all grew up in the same neighborhood. That's also where Nancy bakal came into my life, too, a little after that. And she said, we're also worried about him because he's a brilliant person. He gets some books published, and we go to his little readings in Montreal, but we don't understand these poems at all. They're so obscure. So this went on for a couple of years. In and out of various spots where we'd have dinner, lunch or whatever. Then in 66 she called me one day and she said, well, you'll be surprised, but he's writing songs. And he wants to come to see you to record his songs. Now, by that time, of course I had had the hand in a number of careers, many, many artists. I suppose it was known that if you could get me on a record on Electra because I was recording every year, it would be a good thing for your career. I said to Leonard, you know, Mary told me that you write songs. And I'd love to hear some. If that's okay with you. He said, okay, I'll come by the next day. So the next day he came by. The apartment, and he said, I can't sing and I can't play the guitar. And I don't know if this is a song. And he's saying these three songs, he's saying he's a stranger song, which I've never recorded yet, but I will someday. And he sang me dress rehearsal rag, which is the story of a rehearsal for a suicide. Which I thought was great, and then he sang me, Suzanne. Now, Michael got it right away with Susan. He said, oh, that's it. And I said, I'm not so sure. So it wasn't until a day or two later that it sunk in. That was when I called Jack, we had been working on in my life, which was my 5th album. And it was a huge departure from everything I'd ever done because I know there were no guitars there was no Dylan. There was no fill oaks. It was songs from the morrow outside sounds from the pirate Jenny. It was a huge departure. And in my life, a Beatles song. We should just back up. This was a famous theater production. By Peter Brooks. And the story of the Marquis de Sade, a fantastic production. And the music was not distinctly song. So I took the whole soundtrack, and I had them put it on a reel to reel for me, and then I edited it with my own razor, to put the thing together so that it would make a complete kind of text as a song. And then we said, let's get Josh to do this. Let's get Josh Ruth going to orchestrate these things. Pirate Jenny, the music for the more in my life, et cetera. And so we've done all this material. We went to England actually to record so we could get the folks who sang for the Marat sod recordings. And we were out there, you know, we were having a very good time. Nobody knew what we were doing. And nobody understood why we were doing what we were doing. And so we were very happy with it, but Jack said to me, it's missing something. And that was when Leonard came along. I called Jack a couple days later and I said, I think I found the missing something. I had Leonard play Suzanne for him, and he said, oh, that's it. But we're done. Wow. It's amazing to me at that point that you had 5 or 6 records by that. Before you did in my life. And they'd done okay, but you didn't have a breakout hit on any of them. You were touring a lot. A musician today would not get 6 kicks at the can. Well, they didn't have Jack holtzman on their side. Do you think that was it? Oh, yeah. He was a believer. You know, he said to me, when bob gives had called him from Denver and said I have found your Joan Baez that was in 59. And bob said, I think you have to come out here to Denver and hear her. And he did. But he didn't introduce himself to me, and two years later he came to see me at gerty's folk city and said, you're ready to make a record. And years later, he said, I didn't know that he had come out to Denver. And then he called, after saw me at gertie, she called bal Gibson and said, I have now found my Judy Collins. And he told me this, maybe 5 years ago, I heard this story from him. He saves these little nuggets for me and tells me, decades later. I was saying he hung onto that one for a long time. I had no idea. I said, why didn't you introduce yourself? He said, because I heard you, and I thought she's very good. But then he sought, I did not know if you were serious, and I said, which could have asked me. As always, very seriously. He said, well, I didn't know that. But you see he had a heart also has integrity and he knows that it takes time to build an artist. I would do an ask about two more songwriters. Could you champion very early, Randy Newman? How did that song come to your channel? Somebody sent me somebody from his camp, sent me that song when I was on the verge of recording the in my life album. He had recorded it, and I heard it. And I said, I'm putting this on the album. That's what made the decision in his mind that he was going to be a songwriter. And not go the route of most of his relatives who wrote music for movies, as you know. That was what did it was that I chose the song and I sang it, and of course it's a great and the song is great. I think it will rain today. I think it's going to rain. It's going to rain today. Just an amazing song. So, but I didn't know him. Somebody brought the song to my producer to Mark abramson and kind of threw it on his desk. And how did you first hear Joni Mitchell? Another one of those miraculous moments. I was in the village. I was hanging out, recording, traveling, and I became friendly with Al Cooper, who started blood sweat and tears, then 67, I was passed out, I'm sure, one night, and it was about three in the morning, and I got this call from Al Cooper, and I said, why are you calling me? What is going on? Is something wrong? And he said, no, no. No, no, no. I followed this girl home, and she was good-looking. And she said she was a songwriter. And so I figured I couldn't lose. So I followed her home. And when she got there, she started singing these songs, and I said to her, hold everything, I have to call, Judy. And so he called me, and I said, why are you calling me in the middle of the night? And then he said, I have a surprise for you. She does write songs. And you are going to love them. And then he put her on the phone, and she's saying me both sides now. She's saying that on the phone. Yeah. Did she play guitar when she was singing? Playing the guitar and singing into the phone with Al Cooper sitting next to her. And you thought what? I thought, oh, my God. I'll be right over. And I took Jack with me the next day. And I said, this is it. And he said, you're right. And that was it. I did Michael for mountains, too, which I don't sing in concerts, but it is a great song. And then you later did a couple of other big songs of hers. I did Chelsea morning. Chelsea morning was a hit for you. And then president Clinton and his wife said they named Chelsea morning after listening to my version of the song. But that's a big song that I do. I love that song a lot. Did you maintain a relationship with her over the years? Not really. We've grown apart and we also live in different parts of the country. And she doesn't travel. So much. I mean, she has had her physical issues. But we have had some very nice times Clive Davis Gus together a couple years ago. She was still in a wheelchair, but she came to the Grammy party that he has before the Grammys. And I sang both sides now with a wonderful band for her. And so that was very special. Okay, well, I'm so happy you could fit us in. Because you may be the busiest person I know. What a treat for me. I've loved every second of it. Thank you so much for coming down. Thanks to Judy Collins for taking a stroll down memory lane with Bruce. You can check out a playlist of all of our favorite Judy Collins songs, and songs inspired by Judy columns. At broken record podcast dot com. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel at YouTube dot com slash broken record podcast. We can find all of our new episodes. You can follow us on Twitter at broken record. Broken record is produced at help from Lee arose, Jason gambel, Ben, Eric Sandler, and Jennifer Sanchez, with engineering help from Nick chafee. Our executive producer is Mia Labelle. Broken record is a production of pushkin industries. If you like this show and others from pushkin, consider subscribing to pushkin plus. Push can plus is a podcast subscription that offers bonus content and uninterrupted ad free listening for 4.99 a month. Look for pushkin plus on Apple podcast subscriptions. And if you like the show, please remember to share rate and review us on your podcast app. But things expect any beats. I'm Justin Richmond..

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