Picks and Pans Review: Trust Your Heart

updated 11/23/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/23/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Judy Collins

This tell-all autobiography traces the life, loves, career and emotional development of the popular folk singer probably best known for her 1968 Grammy-winning single, Both Sides Now. Collins was born in Seattle. The strongest influence in her life was her father, Charles, a blind singer and radio personality; her mother, Marjorie, endured his drinking and wild mood swings while raising their five children. By 11, Judy was studying piano with conductor Antonia Brico, preparing to be a classical musician. As a teenager Collins disappointed Brico by abandoning her promising classical career for the pop minstrel's song. (Years later she produced a film profiling Brico, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1974.) By 19, Collins was married to an aspiring academic, had an infant son and was singing for their supper at Michael's Pub in Boulder, Colo. Of performing Collins writes: "Like sex, like motherhood, this was a visceral experience, after which I would never be the same." But her passion for music carried a painful price tag: Her marriage busted up; she lost custody of her small son, Clark; she tried LSD, drifted into alcoholism and had bouts with bulimia. "I had been able to wrest a sort of 'permission' from somewhere to choose the path of an artist," she observes. "The cost was travel and fragmentation...We develop skin as tough as tissue paper. Some nights applause is all that saves your life." Unlike her folk colleague Joan Baez, Collins in her writing never gets preachy about the causes she has taken up, such as the civil rights and antiwar movements. But she has chosen a lazy way to tell her story. She juxtaposes recent diary entries (circa 1985) with her earlier memoirs. The device, which would have required skillful editing to work, seems contrived. Occasionally there also are convoluted and ungrammatical sentences as well as unexplained allusions to such things as the "Windsor war crimes trials." But fans will find plenty of backstage melodrama, such as Collins' tempestuous love life. Her four-year affair with Stacy Keach and a shorter one with Stephen Stills (he wrote Suite: Judy Blue Eyes for her) are dished up spicily. Now 48, a mellowed Collins has spent the last nine years with Louis Nelson, a New York industrial designer. "Until I met Louis," she writes, "I felt I had to perform successfully to have the right to any love." Her parental troubles with her now 28-year-old son are resolved too, and her career is in hand (she has released her 22nd album, which has the same title as her book). This is one maid of constant sorrow whose story may have a happy ending. (Houghton Mifflin, $18.95)

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