Judy Collins Singing Lessons (w/CD)

ISBN 13: 9780671003982

Singing Lessons (w/CD)

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9780671003982: Singing Lessons (w/CD)
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The respected singer and songwriter describes her journey of loss, grief, and recovery following the 1992 suicide of her son and the near-death of her companion of fifteen years, after which she explored the potential of the human soul. Reprint.

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About the Author:

Judy Collins' voice has been described as "liquid silver." Its uniqueness allows her to sing the songs of a disparate range of artists -- from Leonard Cohen and Dylan to Brecht and Weill, to her own compositions -- with equal authenticity. Her early musical studies led her from Denver to New York and to the eclectic musical style that has become her trademark. Judy's thirty albums have sold millions of copies and been certified gold and platinum. Her musical talents continue to enchant a growing following worldwide. A voice for civil rights throughout her life, Judy also produced and codirected an Academy Award-nominated documentary, Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman, about her first music teacher, the pioneering orchestral conductor Antonia Brica. Judy is also the author of three previous books: her autobiography, Trust Your Heart, the story of a spiritual quest, Amazing Grace, and Shameless, a novel.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: Nightfall

When I heard the news of my son's death, I was standing in the foyer of my apartment in New York among the paintings and the flowers and the photographs of my family, in the beautiful space I have called home for twenty-eight years. Louis was in Washington, D.C., making a presentation for the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall. He had called at six that evening, saying he would take the noon shuttle and be home by two the following day. Meanwhile I waited for my son to call me back from St. Paul. I had left a number of messages for him. I worked for a while longer and ate a solitary dinner around eight. I was alone but contented, a normal, quiet evening.

My last.

The doorbell rang at around eight-thirty. I wasn't expecting anyone and a strange feeling came over my heart. I peeked out the keyhole and saw my brother Denver and sister-in-law Allison standing in the hallway. I let them in. There was a deep silence and I knew from my brother's eyes what had happened. He didn't even have to speak. He took me in his arms and my world changed forever. I heard a scream from some primitive place I had not known before.

I clung to my brother, slowly becoming aware of the scent of roses and violets from a bouquet on the hall table; there was a sweet, lingering taste of mint in my mouth; my eyes focused on a photograph of my brothers and sister in a silver frame next to the flowers. I heard the sound of a siren on a Manhattan street below, and then my eyes moved to a picture of my son as a child, his red hair cropped close to his head and his big blue eyes looking out at me. Our eyes held each other and I caught my breath for what seemed an eternity, knowing the world was turning to darkness and I would never see it or hear it or live in it the same again.

My brother and sister-in-law comforted me as best they could. I stood up. I sat down. I laid on the bed. Allison made tea. I wept. My brother had tracked Louis down in Washington and told him the terrible news and Louis had lovingly arranged for Denver to tell me about Clark's death in person so that I wouldn't have to hear it on the telephone. My mother had been called, my siblings -- the family Clark had loved so much and who had loved him all now knew that he was gone.

I had thought we had won this battle, that the darkness had been averted. But it was not to be. Denver, Allison, my nephew Joshua and my niece Corrina and I flew to the Twin Cities the next day, where Louis joined us. The rest of my family arrived from far-flung cities to gather at the mortuary, putting their arms around me and each other; brothers and sister, mother, cousins, holding me close.

The tears for this terrible loss would keep coming in the days and years to follow, dropping like rain from the foggy valley through which I would walk, the valley of the shadow of death.

The world was suddenly the enemy, the place where this could happen, where it had happened. My knees wouldn't hold me, nothing could -- but my loving family held me, and we held on to each other. None of us were sure we would survive Clark's death, floating on this new and terrible ocean that had sprung up around us, an ocean full of storm and sorrow.

In St. Paul, snow had fallen, a heavy white mantle covering every statue in the city, every tree, every lamppost. A whiteness and a cold penetrated my nostrils and my breath froze, holding back even my tears after a while. The weather seemed to foretell the end of a world. This must have been what it was like for primitive peoples, this disappearing of the sun, the brightness and light gone. The weight of my son's death, like the weight of the white snow, stilled every bird, froze all life. Nature wanted to stop, time wanted to stop, life had stopped. For my son, there would be no thaw.

January 16, 1992, Thursday. Bitter cold. Snow. St. Paul, Minnesota

The snow has fallen on the pine trees, and their branches bend, heavy with white drifts. I stand at the door of a long, narrow room covered with a green carpet, my fingers tremble and my knees shake. The walls of the room are hung with flowered wallpaper, a design of green ivy on a cream background. Far away, at the end of the room, is the end of the road, the end of my dreams; a body under a white sheet lies lengthwise on a marble slab and I struggle forward toward the ancient, familiar figure as though climbing a great mountain, as though swimming an endless sea. I walk against the wind, I fight tides. The distance I travel is the breadth of the known world, to the furthest galaxy, to the end of time, to the end of life.

There, I see my son's freckled face, his shining red hair in plaits falling from his high forehead. Red streaks line his pale skin, the mark of the carbon monoxide, the stamp of death. He is some warrior from another time. I kiss his forehead, cold as marble under my lips, and sink to my knees. My tears fall on my hands and on my shoes, then on the snow and on the coverlet of the bed in the hotel in which I lay, my eyes open, waiting, trying to keep breathing. I keep thinking, this is not him, there is some terrible mistake, he is not dead, he cannot be gone.

The next day, Clark lay under the aspen leaves, under the bed of white roses on the lid of the carved wooden casket. Under the baby's breath and intertwined white rosebuds, Clark kept his silent vigil at his funeral.

A suicide.


Louis talked to the press, keeping the newspapers and reporters at bay. He and my brothers handled details at the mortuary, letting me think I was making the decisions myself.

A woman at the mortuary, kind and gentle, told me she would take care of my son.

Alyson, my daughter-in-law, was very shaky and seemed to be in a daze, little Hollis was opened-eyed, aware of everything. She and her mother had discovered Clark's body, as he must have known they would. I knew both must still be in shock. All of us were moving through a dream. A nightmare. Our friend Terry helped Louis order flowers and put the obituary together. We chose an urn for my son's ashes and picked out the casket. The terrible chores. God must have lifted us through these because none of us could do this thing. Together we planned the funeral, Louis inviting Alyson and all of Clark's friends and family to speak. I didn't know if I could walk through this fire.

It was all such a waste, it was all such a tragedy.


Louis spoke with tender words about his stepson. Then he invited everyone to share, Quaker-style. Nearly two hundred of Clark's friend's and family were there and many spoke of his loving spirit. The love for my son poured out in floods of emotion as Clark's friends memorialized my beautiful son. Everyone who loved Clark knew that he fought with his demons, knew that he had lived close to the angels.

After my daughter-in-law spoke, Rosalind, Clark's halfsister, stood, wearing my son's face, his fine bones, his gentleness, his beauty. She is tall like my boy, thin as he was, beautiful, her face pale under her pale complexion, her hair long and strawberry, as his had been. She talked of the secret suicide they shared, the death of their paternal grandfather Al. There was a sound, almost a sigh, in the room as she spoke.

"I see my father and his brother, as grandfather died, taking in that last breath, breathing in as he breathed out, and holding that breath for forty-five years. With Clark's death, that breath can finally be let out." Rosalind had earned the right to speak the truth, and truth was what was needed.

Under the white lilies and roses and aspen leaves atop his coffin, I seemed to see Clark's red hair shimmering all through the ceremony. At the end the bagpiper played "Amazing Grace." I sang "Amazing Grace" for my son for the last time.

At home in New York the mortuary sent me his clothes, the jeans they cut off him, the belt, the gr

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