Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we look at a glistening performance by singer-songwriter Judy Collins, recorded at the legendary Newport Folk Festival on this day in 1963.
On stage, Judy Collins seems almost unearthly, her golden voice sprawling toward the heavens. Hers is a tranquility that seems to sit at the core of her being, as Collins was devoted to manifesting peace as a social activist. Protest and advocacy aside, this should still come as no surprise. Her luminous voice floats unfettered into our hearts, channeling the same serenity she sought to bring to the world.
In this rare footage, we see a young Collins performing an enchanting rendition of a classic folk song, “Anathea.” Its verses tell a story of sorrow and abuse: Anathea’s brother is sent to prison and she sets out to free him. She offers the judge gold and silver, to which he demands that she offer her body to him instead. Desperate to save her brother, she agrees to pay the ultimate price—only to hear her brother has been hanged by the judge nonetheless. Collins’ gentle soprano holds out in a lament, turning this harrowing story into something beautiful.