Judy Collins, who shared many a beer and a bill with Dylan back in the day – and who remembers waking up in the middle of the night at Albert Grossman’s house in Woodstock and hearing him at work on ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ – has also been playing in Britain. She was in in good voice at London’s Cadogan Hall, playing songs from a career spanning 56 years.
Collins reminded the audience that it was she who put Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell on the map, the first artist to record their songs. She recounted being at a Democrats Abroad bash in Norway last year when a woman introduced herself: ‘I’m Marianne’. Collins held out her hand, as the woman continued: ‘Leonard Cohen’s Marianne.’ Apparently, she and Cohen had been living their Greek idyll when the poet woke her in the middle of the night and explained: ‘I’m going to New York to sing my songs to Judy Collins’. Marianne hadn’t even known he was writing songs! Cohen knocked on Collins’ Upper West Side apartment door, introduced by a mutual friend, and sang to her. She was in the midst of recording her ground-breaking 1966 album In My Life and the very next day she cut ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Dress Rehearsal Rag’. Beguiled as she was, ‘I never had an affair with him,’ she said, ‘he was much too dangerous for me’.
She sang ‘Diamonds and Rust’, Joan Baez’ ‘bad boy song’ to Bob Dylan, whom she introduced in so many of her concerts – Baez’ own career was well established by the time he, ‘the unwashed phenomenon’ emerged from Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village.