Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

I've been a fan of Judy Collins for over 45 years, so when I heard she was performing in Crescent City, I had to see her. But I'll admit I was a little skeptical. I live by the mantra "there's no going back," because I've usually been disappointed when I've tried to relive some fabulous moment from my past.

In 8th grade, my classmates Jane and Janet taught themselves to play guitar and sing in harmony. At lunch hour they sang folk songs, which made them very cool. One of their songs was "A Maid of Constant Sorrow," which was on Judy Collins' debut album in 1961. Later in high school Jane paired up with Paul and the couple played in coffee houses. My friends and I often went to hear them sing the songs made popular by Ian and Sylvia, Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger and, of course, Judy Collins.

I visited the Judy Collins website before the concert and clicked on her music timeline and I recognized most of her albums. Remember the yellow "Wildflowers" album with "Both Sides Now" from 1967? The next year she came out with the "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" album with "Someday Soon" and "My Father" (always makes me cry). I owned most of her vinyls from the 60s and early 70s. I keep about a half dozen of my favorite CDs in the visor of my car, and Judy's 1972 "Colors of the Day" is among them. Through her music I discovered Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen and became fascinated with the poetry of their lyrics. It was Judy, Joni and Leonard's music that played as I stepped out of childhood into the adult world.

In college, a group of us went to see Judy in Berkeley in 1971. I remember what I wore, a long white dress with embroidery trim. The venue was intimate and Judy was alone on stage with her guitar and grand piano. Her hair was long and her remarkable eyes so blue. Her voice was better in person than on her records.

Monday night Judy Collins did not disappoint me. She took me back to the days of "Both Sides Now" and "Mr. Tambourine Man." Between songs she shared stories about Cohen and Dylan that brought those days to life. She talked to the audience like an old friend. She reminded us what it was like to speak out against war and called us to action on Election Day. "Vote early and vote often," she laughed.

It was inspiring to see the fire in her eyes andndash; still as blue as ever but etched with lines. My own eyes burned, holding back tears. This was Judy Collins, in the moment, with a handle on where we've been and where we are now. When she missed a note, it didn't matter. If she forgot the lyrics, who cared? Judy Collins took her audience on a musical journey that we all started together a long time ago.

After the concert I had the privilege of spending a few moments with her. Wrapped in a black shawl, Judy was poised and gracious, offering to sign a few autographs. She signed her new children's book/CD "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for Kayla.

In a couple of weeks I'll give this special gift to my granddaughter on her first birthday. It's like passing the baton to the next generation. I don't think it was a coincidence that the last song Judy sang Monday night was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." She knows where the time goes.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.