May 1, 1939, in Seattle.
Sounds like: A cool glass of water in a beautiful, cut-crystal flute.
For fans of: Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, folk art and song.
Latest release: This year's Bohemian, which includes work by Jimmy Webb and a return to the Joni Mitchell songbook, but, sadly, no cover of the Dandy Warhols' "Bohemian Like You."
Why you care: Her lucid soprano, her ethereal yet earthy beauty, her uncanny poise and her unerring taste in material made Judy Collins the premier interpreter of the new wave of 1960s songwriters, introducing the work of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell to the record-buying public. Untethered from strict folkie territory, her mid-'60s run of albums encompassed orchestrally accompanied art song on In My Life and Wildflowers, juxtaposing songs by Brecht/Weill and Brel with the Beatles, Donovan, Cohen and Mitchell (plus, on the latter, her striking first original compositions). Later, her early stab at country rock, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, featured guests Stephen Stills, Flying Burrito Brothers bassist Chris Etheridge and Van Dyke Parks. From there, her work devolved into adult-contemporary smoothness, but still generated stunning performances, like her definitive interpretation of Sondheim's "Send In the Clowns." In later years, she's branched out into writing novels, memoirs (including the new Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music), and, more recently, children's books based on famous songs (like her latest, When You Wish upon a Star). Fortunately, the infomercials for signature-brand eye cream have long since ceased. But Collins' voice retains all its clarity and confidence, and her ear for great songs remains as sharp as her interpretations thereof.