Judy Collins award

By Bill Nevins and Lorenzo Duran Photo credits: www.higginsphotonyc.com

Judy Collins, the Colorado-born “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” of Stephen Stills’s famous song, and the beloved song writer/performer whose many albums and concerts have filled our lives with sad and joyous song, was honored Monday evening, October 15 in a gala ceremony in Manhattan, New York City by the Irish American Writers & Artists organization. IAW&A is a four-year old self-described national “progressive artists” membership organization headed up by President T. J. English (author of Paddy Whacked, The Westies, The Savage City and many other best selling books) and Vice President Larry Kirwan (playwright, novelist and leader of the Black 47 rock band). Each year, in a gala gathering in NYC, the organization awards its Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to a living Irish American artist chosen by the IAW & A board for extraordinary Lifetime Achievement.
These reporters attended this year’s IAW&A O’Neill Award event on Oct 15, which was held upstairs from Rosie O’Grady’s elegant Irish American restaurant on 52nd Street near 7th Ave near Times Square in the heart of Manhattan. It was a memorable evening indeed, as the gab and craic and lovely music flowed.
Tom Paxton, himself a legendary folk music performer, gave us all a lovely set of songs, including “The Last Thing on My Mind’, a song that he wrote and Judy Collins made famous and his wonderful lilting narrative song about his visit to Ireland with his wife and the ageless memories they gathered there. Paxton told this reporter, “It is a joy to be here and I am blessed to know Judy and call her my dear friend.”
Malachy McCourt, the ageless wit and memoirist of television, stage and book fame—regaled us all with praise of Judy Collins and a few choice jabs in the direction of less enlightened public figures who happen to be in the popular eye this election year. The laughs just seemed to roll on for the whole night. Asked if he remembered the days when Larry Kirwan and this reporter were patrons in Malachy’s legendary but long since closed pub The Bells of Hell in lower Manhattan, Malachy quipped, “Ah, were you there? We are giving out refunds to everyone who was!” And he laughed and laughed, as did we all.
The surprise of the evening, besides Judy Collins’s stunningly youthful appearance and warm smile to all whom she met, was the surprise guest appearance by Pete Seeger, the legendary singer and activist, who in his 90s proved and charmingly feisty and musically skilled as ever! Pete treated us to songs accompanied by his well-traveled banjo, the one that has these words inscribed upon it in memory of Pete’s friend and mentor, the late Woody Guthrie: “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender.” Indeed, Pete brought out the love and joy in all of us there, and told this reporter, “I just keep on doing what I have been doing all my life. I see no reason to stop just because I’ve got a few more wrinkles now. And just look at Judy—isn’t she the beauty of the world?”
Judy Collins herself told this reporter, “I am just so happy to be here, and I have to say that being on stage with Pete and Tom and Malachy is one of the thrills of my life! An absolute honor, and I am very grateful to Larry and TJ and all of the Irish Writers and Artists for inviting me.”
On stage that evening, Judy Collins gave us magnificent a cappella renditions of several of her famous songs, and also shared memories of her career, the people she has met and admired and, especially, of her father, the late Chuck Collins, who was a legendary radio host in Denver and who gave to his daughter the grand gift of music and of love of life itself. “I learned more from my dad than I can ever tell, or ever repay. I just hope his spirit lives on in the music and in all the good people here and out there in the wide world,” said Judy. There was scarce a dry eye in the room as she spoke.
IAW&A President T.J. English told this reporter, “IAW&A is a non-profit organization dedicated to the celebration of Irish American writers, actors, musicians, filmmakers and artists both past and present. We are an independent and progressive collective dedicated to the principle that by promoting and appreciating creative expression, we can enhance the human condition. Our goal is to highlight the rich tradition of Irish Americans in all manner of artistic endeavor in the United States, from the 19th Century to the present day.”
Vice Pres Larry Kirwan added, “IAW&A has established itself as a focal point for artists who would like to use their work to affect matters of culture, entertainment, politics and social justice. We stage events, sponsor readings, concerts and art exhibits, and hope to call attention to books, plays, movies, music and other works that reflect the startling Diversity of the Irish American experience”
The 2013 Irish American Writers & Artists Eugene O’Neill Award Gala will be held in October 2013. IAW&A chapters are being organized nationally, and interested persons may get details athttp://www.i-am-wa.org or by contacting this reporter at bill_nevins@yahoo.com

© 2015 Celtic Connection Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha