Judy Collins on her love of Irish music

Judy Collins on her love of Irish music

American folk legend Judy Collins has spoken about her love of Ireland and Irish music.

The singer recently released a ‘Live in Ireland’ DVD which was recorded at Dromoland Castle, Co Clare. The performance included renditions of classic Irish folk songs such as Wild Mountain Thyme and She Moved Thru the Fair.

The 81-year-old revealed to vindy.com that her team were careful to find a venue that created the right ambience. She said: “The insides of castles in Ireland often don’t look like Ireland, so we had to be able to turn it into something that looked Irish and was romantic and well-lighted. We went through a number of choices and settled on this one, and it was perfect.”

Collins recorded in Ireland as she wanted to go back to her roots. She said: “I have an Irish background, and I was raised on the traditional Irish music that my father sang.

“I didn’t even know it was folk music when I was growing up. I just thought it was probably Rodgers and Hart. Those were the songs he sang on the radio. I didn’t understand until I discovered ‘The Gypsy Rover’ and ‘Barbara Allen’ when I was 15.

“I didn’t realize I had been singing ‘Danny Boy’ all of that time, and ‘Danny Boy’ was a folk song.”

Another song on the DVD was ‘New Moon Over the Hudson’. It is an original song and Collins was keen to make sure she was ready to sing it to the Irish audience.

She said: “I’m very excited about that song. It sort of popped out a year ago just about the time I was ready to go over to Ireland to record the concert. I sat down and said, ‘I have to get this song done for Ireland.’ So it turned out to be one of my best songs, one of my most successful songs I’ve ever written.”

Collins shows no signs of slowing down and is keen to get in the recording studio. In 2019, she achieved her first #1 album on an American Billboard Chart with Winter Stories….not bad for an 80-year-old as she was then.

Judy Collins isn’t the only American folk legend to speak of her love of Irish music. Bob Dylan based some of his songs on Irish ballads. For example he took the Parting Glass and adapted it to become a new song called Restless Farewell. Dylan was also a big fan of the Clancy Brothers and described Liam Clancy as the best ballad singer he had ever heard.

Clancy Brothers influence on Bob Dylan


Leonard Cohen also liked Irish music and recorded a version of the rebel ballad, Kevin Barry.

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By Patrick Kehoe

Pat Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily. His favourite Irish music bands are the Dubliners and Planxty.