Our grandson, Aron, called us all outside this morning to look at the cool clouds, and I asked him to take a photo on his phone of the cloud that he found so fascinating and to send his photo to me, which he did, and that’s it here at the top of this post.

When Aron sent me his beautiful cloud photo, it reminded me of Judy Collins’ classic song, which I sent to Aron, along with this memory from last year when Karen and I saw the ghost of Judy Collins in concert under the stars beside San Diego Bay over the Labor Day Weekend.

When Ms. Collins first came out on stage all dressed in white with her hoary head, she shocked us on first sight like Miss Havisham also did Pip in “Great Expectations.”

And then she sang!

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.”

Sing she did with such ethereal beauty, including the occasional faltered note to show the ravage of time that she sang right past, nonetheless, to show trust in her talent, her audience, and the triumph of her art.

Collins also regaled us between songs with the story of our shared life with hers.

“I started playing guitar and piano at an early and tender age.  Hours and hours of piano practice ruined any hope for my social life . . . but I more than made up for that in the ‘60s though!”

She knew Joan Baez and Joan’s two equally gifted sisters, and she loved them all, grieving that two of those three died so young, but she and Joan remain best friends, and how she “helped Joan write a song for an old boyfriend” before Collins then sang “Diamonds & Rust.”

Collins remembered how unimpressive Joan’s old boyfriend was when she first met a homeless teenager with a beat up guitar and “a repertoire of badly-selected and badly-sung old Woody Guthrie songs in Denver around 1958 . . . and Woody had some wonderful songs, mind you . . . but Bobby Zimmerman never sang any of those!”

Collins said that she next saw Zimmerman, who had changed his last name to Dylan, advertised as a folk singer in the Greenwich Village coffeehouses of New York City in 1961, but she had no interest in hearing again that bad singing.   However,  when her friend Al Grossman, who was Dylan’s manager, invited her to his home in Woodstock along with lots of other artists, she heard late one night someone singing at a piano downstairs, 

🎶 And take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind

Down the foggy ruins of time

Far past the frozen leaves

The haunted frightened trees

Out to the windy beach

Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky

With one hand waving free

Silhouetted by the sea

Circled by the circus sands

With all memory and fate

Driven deep beneath the waves

Let me forget about today until tomorrow 🎶

And the audience all then sang with Judy as she led us down this memories lane of “Mr. Tamborine Man.”

She recalled that the two greatest gifts that she and her dearest old friend, the late Leonard Cohen, gave one another were her question to him, “Why don’t you sing your own songs?” and his question to her, “Why don’t you write your own songs?”

After Collins made Cohen famous with her rendition of his classic ballad, “Suzanne,” Cohen sang the song himself, and the world received another very “obscure” voice for music.  

Then Judy Collins began writing her own songs to sing her own life, including a memory of her beloved father who was, himself, a talented, successful singer and also tortured soul like his beautiful daughter.  

She sang him for us all that night in her song, “My Father” to close one of the most wonderful nights of our lives.

“My Father always promised us . . .”

4 responses to “Clouds”

  1. Joe’s Email Avatar
    Joe’s Email

    Interesting story of how they all hung together…like certain of my favorites in Detroit

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Like The Funk Brothers and all the Motown greats that they backed up, huh!

  2. Aging Agnostic Avatar
    Aging Agnostic

    I know how busy you are (or should be ;-), and after reading your blog for a while now and being a previous–sometimes unwilling–benefactor of your copious texts, I now know “where all the time goes.” At least for you! (I’m still trying to figure out where mine went…. At least you’ve got a blog.)

    1. Dear Aging Agnostic, it’s never too late to start your blog! -THN

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