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The Story Behind Judy Collins’ Classic Version of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”

The icon also discusses her recent single "When I Was a Girl in Colorado"

story behind the song send in the clowns judy collins when i was a girl from colorado
The Story Behind the Song: Judy Collins’ “Send in the Clowns,” photo by Shervin Lainez
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    Judy Collins is a music icon, plain and simple. The Grammy-winner best known for folk is actually fiercely eclectic, with a multi-genre career that spans countless albums. Spotify says it’s 28 records, but Collins corrects, claiming it’s well over 50.

    Collins’ storied career, first inspired by folk legends Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, is now in its seventh decade and touches much of American music royalty. (Songwriting legend Leonard Cohen is just one such icon she elevated.) Her musical journey continues this month with the release of Spellbound — surprisingly, her first-ever full album of original songs.

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    Amongst her respected oeuvre, Collins’ biggest hit — a Grammy-winning Platinum smash — is her emotional rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s classic A Little Night Music show tune “Send in the Clowns.”  Sondheim apparently wrote the song almost as an afterthought, and Collins released her version in 1975 after a friend introduced it to her as she looked for inspiration for her album Judith.

    In this eighth episode of The Story Behind the Song podcast, host Peter Csathy speaks with Collins about how her rendition of “Send in the Clowns” came to be, and why it continues to resonate above the hundreds of other versions of the song. The two also discuss Collins’ wistful new original country-folk song “When I Was a Girl in Colorado” from Spellbound. Throughout the conversation, Collins is warm, funny, and passionate — about her music, her connection with fans, and what she believes in (including the latest Spotify controversy and performance royalties for musicians).

    Listen to the podcast above, or check out the full video of the interview ahead.

    Make sure to like, subscribe, and review The Story Behind the Song wherever you get your podcasts. You can also keep an eye on the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our podcasts, and follow host Peter Csathy on Twitter @pcsathy and check out his company CREATV Media.

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