Judy Collins On Gender Equality In Music: "Whatever You Say, Whatever You Do, We Are Not Going Away" | Newport Folk 2019

Judy Collins

Photo by: Daniel Mendoza / The Recording Academy


Judy Collins On Gender Equality In Music: "Whatever You Say, Whatever You Do, We Are Not Going Away" | Newport Folk 2019

The GRAMMY-winning folk icon stopped by to chat with the Recording Academy about the first time she attended Newport Folk in 1963, rubbing shoulders with Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, what the fest means to her and more

GRAMMYs/Jul 30, 2019 - 10:53 pm

Folk hero Judy Collins has seen it all. At a thriving 80 years old, the beloved GRAMMY-winning performer, who is arguably best known for singing the Joni Mitchell-penned "Both Sides Now" and being the subject of Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," Collins remembers attending Newport Folk Festival all the way back in 1963, back when major music stars like Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Leonard Cohen and Pete Seeger were rising, and relatively unknown voices. 

Collins, who still writes, records and tours extensively, remembers hanging with the aforementioned names like it was yesterday. "We'd get drunk and stay up all night and sit out listening to Son House and Mississippi John Hurt," she tells the Recording Academy. "It was very different in those days. It was very exciting, but simpler. There were often stages where the stage was filled with great singers, Dylan and Pete and Odetta. Just so many, many, many, many, many artists been here."

The living legend attended this year's Newport Folk Festival, where she had quite a lively experience, teaming up with Brandi Carlile, The Highwomen and Dolly Parton onstage for multiple duets. The Recording Academy sat down with Collins to chat more about her long, storied history with the fest, how she keeps up the creativity decade after decade and what we have left to do in terms of achieving equal pay and equal rights for women in the music industry. 

What has this festival meant for you and your career, and why is Newport special?

The first time I was at Newport was 1963, I think. From after that I've been on I was here with Peter, Paul and Mary, with [Bob] Dylan before the electric. One of the first big festivals and times when I saw Dylan and Joni [Mitchell], I think, it was '63 and there's lots of footage of that. We'd get drunk and stay up all night and sit out listening to Son House and Mississippi John Hurt. And the tents, the workshops were just incredible full of all kinds. The staples were here, the family. Pete was here, Pete Seeger was always here. John Cohen and Ramblin' Jack Elliott are still here today. They're doing shows at the museum, I think, today, again. So I've been here with so many people. In '67 I put together a show with Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, who were here for the first time that afternoon.

It was an afternoon singer/songwriter on one of the lawns. I mean, I still think I'm old school, but it was very different in those days. It was very exciting, but simpler. There were often stages where the stage was filled with great singers, Dylan and Pete and Odetta. Just so many, many, many, many, many artists have been here. I was on the board of directors with George Wein in the '60s in 1963, '64, '65. Pete was on that board and you would talk about the shows every summer, what they were going to be, who was going to be on them. And I just saw George Wein when I came in the other day. Of course, he's still around. He's still kicking. He's a wonderful man. And it was his genius that put this whole thing together for us. He started with the jazz festival, of course, and then something piqued his interest. I don't know who it was. Maybe it was Pete.

Joan was on that first one in 1959 and she and I are still friends. 2009, which was my last until today, my last appearance here, we sang together, Joan and I in the rain, we sang one of her songs, "Diamonds And Rust." So it's part of my history. I've been here. I've sung here. I've had workshops here. I've introduced artists who were unknown to the public, like Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen and others. And today I'm here with a young artist that I discovered a few years ago with Ari Hest. He's going to be part of my set at the museum today, and we'll sing together. He'll sing alone and we'll do some things. We had an album that we put out two years ago, which was nominated for a GRAMMY. And it was my first GRAMMY nomination in 40 years. I now hold the record for the time between GRAMMY nominations. The runner-up was Gloria Gaynor who had 23 years between her nominations for a GRAMMY.

You shattered the record. Wow. Well, I think that's one thing that strikes everybody about you. It's been 10 years since you've been here and you've been extremely active. For a lot of artists as they get older they lose the fire. What has kept you so productive and creative in this stage of your career?

I landed in the right career when I was 19, and I was 19 when I started doing this, so I've had 60 years to figure out why I love it. I love it because it provides me with an avenue to write songs, to choose songs. I've just made an album with a wonderful bluegrass group called the Chatham County Line, which is coming out in November. In the last five or six years I've had a duets album where I sang with Jackson Browne, and Michael McDonald, and Willie Nelson and done albums with [Stephen] Sondheim, the Sondheim songs I love. Duets where I took Ari's song, which we're going to sing today, "Strangers Again," and added to it other great singers and songwriters. It excites me. What I do is fantastic for me and for my audiences. Imagine being able to do 120 shows a year. Last year I did 115 of those shows with Stephen Stills. I was out with him on the road all over the country, and next year we're going to tour with Arlo Guthrie. It never stops.

In your career you've chosen incredible songs to interpret and sing by other people. What do you look for in a song to make it your own?

It has to be something that I fall in love with immediately, or else I never want to hear it again. So the first six years of my recordings in '61 when I began, first I sang traditional songs, one of which I'm going to sing today, "John Riley." Then I didn't write any songs in that first few years.

I was brought up on all kinds of music. My father was in the radio business. He sang Rodgers And Hart. I knew all those songs. I knew the traditional songs like "Danny Boy." Then when I started to learn folk music, I learned all the traditional songs there, but I never thought about writing songs. There was no reason to. There were so many great songs that I learned from other singers.

The year that I found "Both Sides Now," Joni Mitchell sang it to me on the telephone, which I said last night in front of everybody. She was hanging out with Al Kooper who started Blood, Sweat and Tears, and he put her on the phone and she sang to me "Both Sides Now," which is why this whole thing happened. It was that year in '67 also that Leonard, whom I also recorded his first songs that he ever wrote, he said to me, "I love it. I want you to always record my songs," which I have, but he said, "I don't understand why you're not writing your own songs." So I went home and wrote "Since You've Asked," and I've been writing ever since. I'm going to sing a brand-new one today called "The Grand Canyon."

It's never stopped for me. It's always creative. It's always energy going both to continue to be healthy. I mean, that's one of the things that I'm so grateful for because I have great health. I'm sober for 41 years in case anybody wants to know that there is a solution if you have that kind of a problem. We rock with 12-step programs. They're free, by the way. You don't even need health care to go to a 12-step program, and there are hundreds of them for every problem you might have. So I was lucky because by that time I could then focus on my work, on my health, on eating right, on thinking right, on what's the next creative thing to do, but there's a price for all of it, and part of it is you've got to stay healthy. And we all know that there are lots of people who don't have that good fortune. So I'm grateful for that because it allows me to be able to keep on doing it.

You've been such an activist in your career, especially through music with the songs that you've written, and I think being here at Newport we're reminded that music can create a change. Having been through decades of fighting the good fight when you look back, what do you think music can do? How powerful is it to create change? What have you seen?

A couple years ago I wrote a song called "Dreamers" and I've recorded it. It's about the immigration problem. It's become a problem since people can allow others to direct them to do the wrong thing about immigration. And when I sing "Dreamers," I've been singing it now for about a year and a half, and as I said, I do 120 shows a year, so I have an opportunity to hear and to experience what people think. I think I can hear them thinking because it gets very quiet. I'm going to sing that song today in my show at the museum with Ari.

I don't think I'm making this up. I think when I'm singing the song, I can almost hear people thinking, "Okay, so what do I do? What could be an action that I could take that one person can take?" One person can vote. One person can give money to a candidate that's doing the right thing. One person can go and march. One person can change their entire life, really, if they wish to. And I hear that going on. Of course, then when the song is finished there's a silence and then this incredible wave of people screaming and yelling, standing up, and chanting and hollering, and wanting somehow to do something right this minute.

Oh, it gives me chills and that's exactly how it happens and how it makes change. I'd also love to ask you about gender equality in music. I think this year's festival has a very strong feminine power behind it with last night's headliner, we had The Highwomen in here yesterday. In your career, what progress do you think has been made towards a level playing field for all musicians? And what do you think we still have left to do when it comes to gender equality and music?

Well, equal pay for equal work is the thing that comes to mind. I mean, we are breaking all kinds of glass ceilings. I was so impressed with Brandi [Carlile] what she did last night. She really gave her time. My husband and I were talking about she gave up her spotlight to include all these women, and to make it into something which really showed, oh, well, here we are. Whatever you say, whatever you do, we are not going away. We are here to stay. And we are going to get equal pay for equal work one of these days. It's not happened yet in all these years.

I mean, my husband and I, the first time we met we were at an equal rights amendment fundraiser in 1978. Everybody hollered and yelled. I think we were one vote short. I mean, we really came close to getting this passed, and I think that's where we are now. I think the equal rights amendment has to pass and equal equality. I mean, we've got the gender equality. We've got the financial equality to work on, but it's moving, it's happening. I think that there's every reason to believe that [women] hold up half the sky. I can't remember who it was who said that. I don't think it was a woman. [Editor's note: Mao Zedong first said "Women hold up half the sky."] 

You mentioned "Both Sides Now" and the GRAMMY. What memories do you have of finding out that you'd been nominated for a GRAMMY Award 50 years ago?

Well, I was very out of it in those days. I mean, I was very present. I never canceled a date. I always showed up on time, but I was a little foggy. I was thrilled. Well, first of all, I fell in love with Joni Mitchell's songs, many of them, because I recorded "Both Sides Now." I recorded "Michael From Mountains." I recorded "Song About The Midway." I recorded others of hers and I'm singing in concerts. I'm singing others of her songs, but she just dazzled me always. So when I heard that it was nominated, well, and then I had a GRAMMY for it that was very good news, but on the other hand I had a show to do the next night. I had places to go, luggage to pack, drinks to get, you know? It was all about keeping the whole show going. It was thrilling because I think it made it clear that I was serious about what I was doing.

Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby & Amanda Shires Of The Highwomen Are "Redesigning Women" | Newport Folk 2019


GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy


Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images


Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards