Judy Collins (born Judith Marjorie Collins on May 1, 1939, in Seattle, Washington) is an American singer and songwriter known for the eclectic range of material she records (which has included folk, show tunes, pop, and rock and roll, as well as and standards) and for her social activism. Beginning in 1959, she was drawn to the music of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and the traditional songs of the folk revival of the early 1960s. In 1968 she was awarded a Grammy for "Both Sides Now". Since then she has had an enviable reputation as a singer and for her own compositions.
Though born in Seattle, Washington (where she spent the first ten years of her life), she moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1949. As a child Collins studied classical piano with Antonia Brico, making her public debut at age 13 performing Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos. 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. 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.
At first she sang traditional folk songs, or songs written by others, in particular the social poets of the time, such as Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan. She recorded her own versions of seminal songs of the period, such as Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn". Collins was also instrumental in bringing then little known composers to a wider public; for example, she recorded songs by Canadian poet Leonard Cohen, and Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.