JUDY IS IN MY LIFE

When I was little, I had a babysitter named Nancy Devries. God only knows where Nancy is these days, but she is someone I will never forget. I remember three specific things about her: she had long, thick red hair and freckles, her handwriting was so tiny that it was barely visible, and every time she would come over to babysit, we’d pull out my parent’s Judy Collins “In My Life” album, throw it on the turntable, and fall into the music.

“In My Life” was an album that would resonate throughout my childhood. My parents would play it seemingly endlessly and it would waft about in the living room of our converted barn. Judy’s collection of different yet mesmerizing songs, like “Sunny Goodge Street”, “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today”, “Suzanne”, Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, and her beautiful rendition of The Beatles’ “In My Life”, are ingrained in my psyche and rife with magical, nostalgic memories of my childhood.

When my Dad died in 2004, I put together a tape of music to play at the church before and after the service, and I included Judy’s “In My Life” in the repertoire. As it resonated throughout the church, the memories were staggering. It took me, and certainly my Mom as well, back to images of warm fires lit in that beautiful old Millstone Road living room, and Dad there with a martini sitting there on the floor, leaning back on a chair, looking at the tall barn ceiling, alone in his thoughts. Plus, the lyrics…”there are places I remember, all my life, though some have changed…”, it all just seemed too perfect not to include in that profoundly sad yet meaningful day. It seemed a fitting tribute to my Dad that conjured up thoughts of a much less complicated time. And when my Mom died three days after Dad’s service, you had to know that Judy’s “In My Life” would make it into her service too. Except this time, the memories were of Mom, in that same living room so many years ago, singing along to John and Paul’s words and Judy’s voice, the crackling firelight illuminating her long auburn hair.

I met Judy Collins today. It was true thrill, even after meeting so many celebs in my twenty five years in the media business. Yeah, the palms even sweated a little when I was walking down to the Green room. The living folk music legend was at W*USA to talk about her appearance at AARP’s Life at 50 event in DC this weekend, as well as a new Judy Collins tribute album due out in October, with artists such as Chrissie Hynde, Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin and Leonard Cohen celebrating the music and poetry of this exceptional talent whose career has spanned more than 50 years.

When she came into the room from the makeup area, she seemed ethereal, almost like a fairy-style character from “Lord Of The Rings” or something, her long white hair sweeping around her head. Brain snippets of timeless songs like “Send In The Clowns”, “Both Sides Now” and of course, “In My Life” came streaming into my head. We chatted, and I mentioned that I had played her version of “In My Life” at my parent’s funerals. She stopped, looked at me, and slowly nodded. No words were said, but I think I knew what she was thinking. That her music, as well as filling happy and positive moments, could also be fitting for such somber and poignant ones. I escorted her to the studio for her appearance, and we shook hands, clasping both of each others tightly.

And I bet you know what song, and which two people, were there with me as I walked away.

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3 Responses to “JUDY IS IN MY LIFE”

  1. Steve,
    So glad you got to meet her. She was a great interview and looked fantastic. I know that for an artist that has to be one of the best compliments they can get: beint told their artistic creation has made a difference and touched hearts. I too have an idea of what that nod meant.

  2. wow. that was haunting.

  3. Steve – she’s a lovely lady, as you described, with a fairy-like aura that evoked much when she was singing. Growing up on the Eastern End of LI, there were some female writers that rented the house down the block, on the beach from me. Although I was a youngster, I recognized the weekend visitor during the quiet winter walks on the beach, from the album cover of ‘Both Sides Now’ — a prominent album in my parents collection. We never exchanged words, just as we’d pass eachother, she’d smile. I was cool and would run home to tell my family…”guess who I just saw walking the beach…”

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