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Stephen Stills and Judy Collins -- couple turned collaborators
A little love has gone a long way for Judy Collins and Stephen Stills.
The two musicians were a romantic couple during the â60s; Collins inspired Stillsâ Crosby, Stills & Nash opus âSuite: Judy Blue Eyes.â Theyâve also remained lifelong friends, which led to a collaborative album, âEverybody Knows,â last fall, and a combined tour that began last year and continues through 2018.
âItâs got the markings of something that was bound to happen, and by some miracle both of us are still on the planet and feeling very healthy and positive,â Collins, 79, says by phone. âI think a lot of people see this as a reunited romance, which in a way it is because itâs certainly a romantic musical romance because weâve always liked each otherâs work, and then weâve also had a lot to say with each other.
âWhen we started rehearsing for the record (Stills) said, âYâknow, we shouldâve done this from the first and sort of skipped the romance.â And I said, âYeah, but then you wouldnât have written âSuite: Judy Blue Eyes,â probably.â
The association certainly does raise eyebrows. Even longtime Stillsâ collaborator Graham Nash notes that, âAt first I was kind of shocked that you would generate an entire tour over a love affair. Really? But itâs great.â
Collins, meanwhile, adds that the key to the duoâs success now is the lack of any residual animosity from their breakup.
âItâs a long relationship,â explains Collins, whoâs been married to fashion designer Louis Nelson since 1996. âWe always were friends. We didnât ever hate each other. We had a kind of, I would say, dramatic love affair â lots of positive and then a lot of upset because it wasnât working out. But Iâd go visit him when I had a breakup with somebody and weâd hang out, and the same thing with him. And we see each other with our spouses from time to time.
âStephen always says we probably are still friends because we married other people, and that WAS helpful.â
Stillsâ and Collinsâ careers paralleled each other during the â60s â Stills with Buffalo Springfield and then CSN, Collins as a folk and pop singer who first hit big with her version of Joni Mitchellâs âBoth Sides Nowâ during 1968. They were both notable figures in Los Angelesâ Laurel Canyon music scene and shared a passion for political activism. They spoke for years about working together but didnât get serious until the past couple of years.
âIt was an album first,â Collins says. âI wouldâve preferred to do the tour first and then the album, but you have to record the album so you can have it on the road with you, so thatâs what we did.â
âEverybody Knows,â which came out Sept. 22, includes a variety of covers â of each otherâs material (Stillsâ âQuestionsâ and âSo Begins The Task,â Collinsâ âHousesâ and âWho Knows Where The Time Goesâ) as well as songs by Bob Dylan (âGirl From The North Countryâ), Leonard Cohen (âEverybody Knowsâ) and the Traveling Wilburys (âHandle With Careâ). It also features a new Collins composition, âRiver Of Gold,â as well as âJudy,â a song Stills wrote around the same time as âSuite: Judy Blue Eyesâ and was originally released in demo form on his 2007 âJust Roll Tapeâ collection.â
Collins â who describes hearing Stills sing about her as âdeliciousâ even decades later â predicts the duo will be a going concern, alongside other endeavors. Though Stills is on hiatus from his various combinations with Nash, David Crosby and Neil Young, Collins has a full docket including a second album with singer-songwriter Ari Hest as well as a solo album, an album of Stephen Sondheim songs called âLove Letter To Stephen Sondheimâ and a book, âCravings,â about eating disorders and diets.
But she promises there will always be time to do more with Stills.
âI think weâre up for it,â Collins says. âI think now that itâs established and we both have ideas of things that we want to do musically, itâs just a matter of how we get around the world. Lots of people want us, so itâs possible we might be able to go forward in some way or another.
âRight now the main thing is to focus on this tour and get it right. Itâs progress and not perfection, as they say.â
âą If You Go: Stephen Stills and Judy Collins, with Joe Purdy opening, perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. Tickets are $45-$99.50 pavilion, $30 lawn with an $80 lawn four-pack. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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