As always, initially I started reading something else - the sequel to Diana Gabaldon's "Voyager" thinking that I should continue with the story while it's still fresh in my mind, alas, dear reader, I was suddenly overwhelmed with excitement about packing & leaving for vacation (finally) and could simply not focus on Gabaldon who was just going nowhere, same old, same old - I caught myself thinking "this is so silly and trivial and I'm not even enjoying it" so I did the best possible thing and gently postponed "Drums of Autumn" for some other time when I might be in the right frame of mind to enjoy never-ending lust between Claire and Jaimie (it came to the point that now I just find all these sex scenes simply tedious, the plot is not moving anywhere and these two are still humping each other chapter after chapter). To a certain degree I like Gabaldon and recognise kindred spirit but right now I needed something else to help me with insomnia. So off I went for my old hobby, books about music celebrities. This year I read only one so my celebrity thirst is firmly under control.
I have already read some autobiographical work by Judy Collins. Somewhere in my books collection is her first volume "Trust Your Heart" and I even might have "Singing Lessons" which didn't stop me from reading this title. Not that it brings anything radically different - her life story is now firmly established as a part of public consciousness, part of our collective memory, perhaps even part of the history (in a sense that every piece of puzzle is of great importance to a complete picture) - but although previously told, the story is always slightly different when looked at from different perspective, at various times colours shimmer in a different light.
If you are familiar with her music - soothing, comforting, often enchanting - you might be surprised to discover that in 1960s Collins was indeed very far from gentle folkie persona associated with her. Artsy and curious, yes. Making pottery and performing in theatre, check. But she was also an earthy, fun-loving soul on a search of spiritual enlightenment who happened to find her solace and success in music, music that completely changed her life, lifted her up from anonymity and carried her trough decades in cutthroat business. Collins doesn't flinch from some less attractive truths about herself back than - like everybody else, she had her share of nomadic life, bad company and self-destructive tendencies. In her book, she almost gleefully demolishes the gentle folkie image audiences associated with her. There is a unforgettable scene where Janis Joplin tells her "“You know,” she said, “one of us is going to make it. And it’s not going to be me.” Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and the whole myriad of rock aristocracy make their entrances and exits trough the pages of the book and still this is not just a name dropping - Collins was there and she is a witness of these times.
There is a very important sentence right at the beginning of this book, in fact its right here before the first chapter: "In all cases, it is my memory of an event that supersedes the memories of other participants who might have been at the same party. There are no accidents in memory, for memory has its own reasons and its own logic. What I remember is what happened to me as I best recall it." This, in my opinion is the key to this book. It is not about Grammy awards, Billboard Hot 100, album sales or even relationships, no matter how much these things mattered at the time. Collins really happened to be the right person at the right time to witness social atmosphere and immense changes of 1960s and was brave enough to join the gang even when it meant jail, prosecution or (like in her case) being gagged in a court, where she defiantly sang "where have all the flowers gone?" to outraged judge. This is much, much more than mellow, incense burning, nature loving, whales duetting folkie who eventually outgrows the genre and reinvents herself as artsy pop singer - Collins has a story to tell and at this stage of her life, age and earned wisdom to look back at certain moments with a wistful regret. She remembers idyllic times in mountains of Colorado where she spend some dreamy times as a young woman with her first husband and baby son "I always look, and I always wonder how our lives would have turned out if we had stayed in those glorious mountains where my heart still yearns to be." But music beckoned and nothing was ever the same, even if those first years might have been frustrating - but joy was always there, a sense of humour, a sense of camaraderie, sometimes booze (Collins explains her alcoholism as genetic tendency to addiction) and sometimes, real love. There is a beautiful black and white picture taken on some airport in 1968, with young and glowing Stephen Stills and Judy Collins looking like happiest couple in the world. It is a really poignant picture, a frozen moment in time.
After I finished the book, out of curiosity I checked the list of her discography and found (to my surprise) that I actually own more than sixteen of these albums. I treat myself with her music like it is some medicine - when I need some comfort, tenderness or nurturing, I turn to "Someday soon" or "Farewell to Tarwathie" or "So Early, Early in the Spring" (I could go on forever like this) and to this day I believe that her version of "In My Life" is the best Beatles cover ever.