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Concert preview: At 77, Judy Collins keeps on because ‘I never want to stop getting better’

First Published      Last Updated Mar 06 2017 11:20 am


Concert preview » Folk singer set to play Abravanel Hall finding inspiration in everything from social issues to chance encounters with Chance the Rapper.

Judy Collins acknowledges being "very surprised" that her most recent album, "Silver Skies Blue," earned her and co-performer Ari Hest a Best Folk Album nod at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

While she didn't win, the experience of earning her first nomination in more than four decades and attending the ceremony were affirming highlights.

"Are you kidding? I was thrilled! I was thrilled! This was one of the high spots of your life, to be recognized by your industry after all. So when that happens, it's very exciting," Collins said in a phone interview. "And anyway, it was the whole festive atmosphere, meeting old friends — I had a ball! I hung out with Chance the Rapper! I had a very good time. A very good time."




Wait … what?

Judy Collins, 77 years old, singer of folk songs and show tunes and standards, "hung out" with Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album winner Chance the Rapper at the Grammys?

"It was fun. I met his mother," Collins added. "She's very cute, she's very proud of him. Which she should be."

Collins remains full of surprises. And she promised a few more at her March 11 concert at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.

That show is part of her big-picture plan to stay busy. She still does around 125 live performances per year, gives speaking engagements on the topic of mental health, just released her latest book, "Cravings," which is "the story of my eating disorder combined with the stories of many of the diet gurus in our history," and is already writing songs for her next album.

What, though, is the motivation for keeping such a full schedule at her age?

"Making a living is not bad," she joked. "And I am an artist. I'm a working artist, and that means that I have to work! And I have to work at what I do. I mean, what I do is what drives my train, so to speak. I love it, and I want to get better all my life — I never want to stop getting better. And the way to do it is to keep working."

So, no plans to retire anytime soon?

"Please — don't even say it! It's not in my repertoire, or my language, thank you," she said. Constantly working, she continued, is "what artists do. They keep doing their thing, whether they're painters or musicians or singers or writers. Nobody stops writing a book because they've reached the age of 80. That's when things really get good!"

Collins is hoping her work will continue to be recognized as really good well into the future.

She's been nominated for six Grammys, winning in 1969 for the song "Both Sides, Now," written by Joni Mitchell. (Stephen Sondheim won the Song of the Year Grammy in 1976 for writing "Send in the Clowns," which Collins performed and popularized.)

And she freely acknowledges that such acknowledgments are meaningful to her. She's never been one of those artists who claim that awards don't matter.

"I won one Grammy. … I never got the statue, because the rules were different in those years, and the writer always got the statue. So I don't have a statue, but I do have a Grammy officially," she said. "They matter. Oh, they matter. They matter. They matter."

What also matters to her are the sociopolitical issues of the day. She angrily derided President Donald Trump for "trying to doom the democracy with every day, with every breath."

She sees parallels between the social activism of the turbulent '60s when she came into prominence as a folk singer and what's taking place today.

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AT A GLANCE

Judy Collins

When » Saturday, March 11, 7:30 p.m.

Where » Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $49.50-$59; Art Tix


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