Folk icon Judy Collins has been winning over the hearts of fans for more than 50 years. But behind the stardom and sweet voice, the Grammy Award-winning soprano had to find the strength and resilience to rise above a series of hardships and sorrow in her life. From surviving polio in her childhood and tuberculosis in her early twenties, she also battled alcoholism, bulimia, depression, and lost her only child to suicide. Today, at 78 years old, Collins still performs an impressive average of 120 shows a year and fills her free time with her advocacy work, which includes serving as guest speaker at NAMI’S annual Hope Shines Luncheon on December 8.
NI: How has writing helped you deal with your struggles?
Collins: It kept me on the planet, that’s for sure. After my son died, I put out three books about recovering from traumatic loss as well as the creative process: Sanity and Grace; Morning, Noon, and Night; and The Seven T’s. I found journaling to be very important to these issues and wrote every day. I don’t have an answer for how to prevent suicide, but by tackling the issue, you help break down the taboo surrounding it and ultimately find the strength to get through it.
NI: How do you maintain such a grueling schedule?
Collins: I’m healthy, which is fantastic, and that’s mainly why I can do what I do. I’m very much in favor of finding natural and holistic ways to stay healthy and active, and using alternative medicine to heal physical, mental, and spiritual issues.
NI: What will you focus your lecture on at this year’s Hope Shines Luncheon?
Collins: Oh, it’ll be a surprise as usual. I’ll take you on a winding lane of many subjects that are still considered taboo, such as alcoholism, suicide, and eating disorders. I’ve done a lot of work with NAMI throughout the past 30 years, so I’m very familiar with what a wonderful resource it is and how important the group is to the community.