Judy Collins Revisits ‘Wildflowers’ at NYC Performance
Judy Collins performed the entirety of her 1967 album, Wildflowers, last night (Feb. 25) at the Town Hall in New York City.
Backed by a 15-piece orchestra, the Harlem Chamber Players (conducted by Tania Leon), the performance served as a celebration of the album's recent 55th anniversary. Collins was also joined on piano by her musical director, Russell Walden.
"I want you to know you're looking at the 'American Idol' of 1956," Collins joked before launching into "Mountain Girl," a song from 2019. She then noted that her first performance at the Town Hall had taken place nearly 60 years ago in 1964, which was recorded and made into a live album, The Judy Collins Concert. "A lot of you were here!" she said. "Some of you weren't born yet!"
Collins then performed Wildflowers in full, which featured new string arrangements performed by the Harlem Chamber Players.
Wildflowers, Collins' sixth album, was her first to feature original music. One day, Leonard Cohen, whose work Collins had covered on previous albums, asked her why she didn't write her own songs. She immediately went home and wrote "Since You've Asked" in less than an hour. "It either takes a long time or a little time. But it takes tension. It takes what it takes," Collins explained to UCR of her songwriting in 2022. "Sitting down, letting the thing happen, praying that the muse will show up, and the muse, whoever the muse is — and I don't know who my muse is, maybe it's Leonard, probably in some form or other — but it's always a mystery, and it will remain a mystery."
Wildflowers is also notable for the inclusion of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now," which would not be recorded by Mitchell herself until 1969's Clouds. It was Collins' version that initially became a hit, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Also featured on Wildflowers is Mitchell's "Michael From the Mountains," and three songs penned by Cohen, "Sisters of Mercy," "Priests" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye.")
Collins, who is 83, released her most recent album, Spellbound, in 2022 — her first album to feature exclusively original material. At the Town Hall, she joked that 83 "is the new 25," but also noted, as she sat at the piano to play a few selections from Spellbound, that she wished she could call Cohen up to tell him she'd finally written an entire album of original songs.
"I was raised in an environment in which I knew that I was going to be doing this for the rest of my life," she told UCR in 2022. "[This] is the only way that I stay on the planet."
Collins is currently scheduled to tour the U.S. through most of 2023, with more performances in the U.K. this fall.