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On June 7, at McLean’s annual dinner, singer songwriter Judy Collins was presented with the 2016 McLean Award by McLean Board of Trustees Chair David Barlow. Her candid remarks were peppered with humility and humor as she recounted a life in the public eye juxtaposed with her personal and familial battles with mental illness. A spontaneous a cappella rendition of “Both Sides Now” earned her a heartfelt standing ovation. Before leaving the podium, she invited the room to join her in song, leading them in a moving performance of “Amazing Grace.”
Judy Collins has inspired audiences since the early 60s with her soaring vocals and imaginative interpretations of traditional folk songs as well as her own poetic compositions. Her well-known rendition of “Both Sides Now” is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and she has had several top-ten hits and gold and platinum albums. Recently, Judy released “Strangers Again,” a collection of duets with legendary performers such as Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Jeff Bridges, Ari Hest, and Michael McDonald.
Judy’s deep commitment to social activism along with a fervent dedication to mental health advocacy earned her this year’s McLean Award. She is recognized for her work to promote open and honest discourse about difficult subjects such as suicide, addiction, depression, and bulimia. She is committed to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and is a sought-after speaker on these topics.
Despite her tremendous artistic and musical accomplishments, Judy’s private life has seen turmoil and heartbreak. She has battled depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and an eating disorder. The suicide of her only son, Clark, galvanized her drive to speak out about suicide and suicide prevention.
Judy has authored several books, including Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival, and Strength, in which she poignantly shares the events surrounding her son’s death. In her most recent title, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music, she recalls her turbulent childhood, rise to fame, epic victories over mental illness, and redemption through a healthy and stable lifestyle.
Judy, now 77, is as creatively vigorous as ever, writing, touring worldwide, and nurturing fresh talent. She is an accomplished filmmaker, record label head, musical mentor, and an in-demand keynote speaker for mental health and suicide prevention. She continues to create music of hope and healing that speaks to the heart.