Judy Collins was born in Seattle Washington in 1939. She eventually made it to New York City and worked in the Greenwich Village Folk Music Scene. She was signed to Elektra Records at the young age of twenty two. Judy Collins’ first album was entitled A Maid of Constant Sorrow. The album was released in 1961. Judy Collins quickly followed up her debut album one year later in 1962 with the record Golden Apples of the Sun. Her third album was released in 1963 and titled appropriately Judy Collins #3. Her first three records contained sparse musical arrangements and only featured vocals, bass, and guitar as many traditional folk albums of the 1960s did.
After a few more album releases in the 1960s, Judy Collins released her breakthrough album in 1967 entitled Wildflower. The album turned Judy Collins into a household name because of the album’s huge hit single “Both Sides Now.” The song “Both Sides Now.” was written by Joni Mitchell. It would become one of the two signature Judy Collins songs that mainstream fans would know her by.
Judy Collins’ success with the Wildflower album continued with her next three albums entitled Who Knows Where the Time Goes in 1968, Whales & Nightingales in 1970, and True Stories and Other Dreams in 1973. By 1973, Judy Collins had become one of the most famous singers in the world. Her career would take another huge leap forward commercially in 1975 when she released the album Judith. The album contained what would become her other signature song entitled “Send In the Clowns.”
Judy Collins has been one of the most consistent musical artists of all time. While she may not have had many hit singles since the 1970s she continues to release albums in every decade. From 1961 up until this year in 2019 she has released twenty seven studio albums. She has never gone longer than 5 years in between records. Judy Collins also released seven live albums and a large assortment of compilation albums. Her contributions to the Classic Rock Era are immeasurable.
Below is just a sampling of some of our favorite Judy Collins songs. It is in no way a definitive list, but rather just a showcase of some of her biggest hits and lesser-known album gems.
# 10 – Tom Thumb’s Blues
We open up our top 10 Judy Collins songs with her great cover version of Bob Dylan’s “Tom Thumb’s Blues.” The song was released on her classic album In My Life. The album title was named after the famous Beatles song. The album was released in 1966. It was an album that consisted entirely of cover songs. Bob Dylan’s “Tom Thumb’s Blues,” was the album’s opening track.
# 9 – Nightingale I
We continued our top 10 Judy Collins songs list with one of her lesser known songs. Although, it is a favorite among hardcore or Judy Collins fans. The song “Nightingale 1,” was released on the album Whales & Nightingales. The album was released in the summer of 1970
# 8 – Sailor’s Life
The Judy Collins song “Sailor’s Life,” was released on her astonishing debut album A Maid of Constant Sorrow. Judy Collins’ debut album was released in 1961. “Sailor’s Life,” is a traditional English folk song written in the 18th century. The song has been covered by many folk artists including a wonderful version recorded by Fairport Convention in the late 1960s.
# 7 – Home Again
Continuing with our top 10 Judy Collins songs we take a giant leap in time from 1961 all the way to 1984 with the album Home Again. The album’s title track appears here at number seven. The album featured many of the best session players in the business on the record including Lee Ritenour who played on all the classic 1970s Steely Dan songs during the Aja and Gaucho period. Keyboardist and legendary producer Dave Grusin produced the record giving it a sound far different from her 1960s records.
# 6 – Bread and Rose
Once again we list a title track on this top 10 Judy Collins songs list. The wonderful song “Bread and Roses,” was the title track to the album Bread and Roses. The record was released in 1976. The song “Bread and Roses,” harkens back to Judy Collins’ days as an activist. The song was written by Mimi Fariña and James Oppenheim.
# 5 – Someday Soon
Judy Collins’ song “Someday Soon,” was released on the album Who Knows Where the Time Goes. The album was released in 1968. The album’s title track was written by Sandy Denny who recorded the song with Fairport Convention. We loved Judy Collins’ version but the song is so associated with being the most popular Fairport Convention song we decided to go with the track “Someday Soon,” instead. Which by the way we love just as much. “Someday Soon,” was written by Ian Tyson. It was released as the only single from the record. It was a modest hit for Judy Collins peaking at number 55 on the Billboard Hot 100.
# 4 – Amazing Grace
Judy Collins’ beautiful version of the Christian Hymn “Amazing Grace,” was released on the Whales & Nightingales album. The record was released in 1970. “Amazing Grace,” was placed as the final song on the album. It helped propel the album to be certified Gold.
# 3 – Send In The Clowns
It was tough to figure out where to place the next two songs on this list because of their sheer popularity. The song “Send In The Clowns,” was a huge hit for Judy Collins. The song has resonated deeply in music culture for the past 45 years. It has been widely covered by many artists. The song was released on the album Judith. The record was released in 1975. The song was written by legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim.
# 2 – Both Sides Now
Most people would assume this one to be placed in the number one spot on any Judy Collins songs list. It is Judy Collins’ only top 10 hit. The song peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. It is one of the most popular songs ever written. Joni Mitchell’s classic song has been covered by thousands of artists. While we love Judy Collins’ version, and it is obviously her most popular song, we feel that the song almost overshadows the artistry of Judy Collins. For that reason alone we have placed it at number two on this Judy Collins songs list.
# 1 – Michael From Mountains
We have chosen the great Judy Collins song “Michael From Mountains,” as our number one selection in this top 10 Judy Collins songs list. The reason we have chosen this one over the previous two is we felt this one defined the brilliance of Judy Collin’s art more than almost any other Judy Collins song. Her performance on this one is breathtaking. The song “Michael From Mountains,” was released on the album Wildflower. The song was written by Joni Mitchell.
Updated June 6, 2023
Top 10 Judy Collins Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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