Judith Marjorie "Judy" Collins (born May 1, 1939) is an American singer and songwriter, known for her eclectic tastes in the material she records (which has included folk, show tunes, pop, rock and roll and standards); and for her social activism. She is an alumna of the University of Colorado.
Collins was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. As a child, Collins studied classical piano with Antonia Brico, making her public debut at age 13, performing Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos. Dr. Brico took a dim view, both then and later, of Collins's developing interest in folk music, which led her to the difficult decision to discontinue her piano lessons. Years later, when Collins had become internationally known through her music, she invited Dr. Brico to one of her concerts in Denver. When they met after the performance, Brico took both of Judy's hands in hers, looked wistfully at her fingers and said, "Little Judy -- you really could have gone places." Still later, Collins discovered that Brico herself had made a living when she was younger playing jazz and ragtime piano (Singing Lessons, pp. 71–72). She also had the fortune of meeting many musicians through her blind father, a Seattle radio disc jockey.
However, it was the music of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and the traditional songs of the folk revival of the early 1960s, that piqued Collins' interest and awoke in her a love of lyrics. Three years after her debut as a piano prodigy, she was playing guitar. Her music became popular at the University of Connecticut where her husband taught. She performed at parties and for the campus radio station along with David Grisman and Tom Azarian. She eventually made her way to Greenwich Village, New York City, where she busked and played in clubs until she signed with Elektra Records, a record label with which she was associated for 35 years. In 1961, Collins released her first album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, at the age of 22.