17 December 2004

The Death-Defying Judy Henske

there aren't many broads left. PC saw to that. thankfully Judy Henske never subscribd to that nonsense.

when I got back from fondling an Academy Award Henske's new CD was in my mail with a note from the lady herself asking if I was still writing. it's been some time since I dedicatd "Twenty Sonnets Bound in Gold" to Henske & she's probably wondering why the hell I haven't written anything for her lately.

she blastd her way into my life when I went to college. one of those tv shows specializing in folk singers. sure.... that may have been her way in but she never fit the Baez mold. she did some folk & some rock & some jazz & some stand-up. there was no one like her. she was bawdy & had a honytonk voice that cd break yr heart one minute & melt yr fillings the next. without Henske there wd have been no Janis Joplin     no Bette Midler.

back in the '60s Woody Allen was Henske's opening act at the Village Gate. there are those who say that the inspiration for Annie Hall is more Henske than Diane Keaton. Henske made a movie & did an Anita Loos musical off-Broadway.

the only time I saw her live was in the fall of 1965. La Cave in Cleveland. she'd introduce a song with a long sometimes surreal story. those who know me know when I'm in an audience because of my laugh. that nite the laugh was in overdrive. while others were chuckling politely I was letting loose. & Henske knew it. she startd looking straight into my eyes     directing her story at me. I've cherishd that memory for almost 40 years now.

Henske became part of a group (Rosebud) before sort of disappearing. if you were careful you knew she was still writing songs. but they were for other singers. we now know that she was playing mom. but with the chick out of the nest she came back & boy did she ever come back. Loose in the World starts off with "Mad Dog Killer." it was as if she never left the building.

the new CD She Sang California has some new songs & some of her oldies. on a first listen I was thrown to the floor with "Western Wisconsin." she first record'd it in 1971. it was beautiful then. it's even more beautiful now. the voice is that of a woman who's had a life.

if you haven't heard Judy Henske -- shame on you. but there is a remedy. go to her site & order some records. for a virgin I'd suggest listening first to High Flying Bird. but be careful. when this broad gets you in her web you'll never get loose.


DaWentz said...

Hi Alex,
Thank you very much for your wonderful piece about Judy and her newest CD, She Sang California. Also, about her uniqueness in the music world.

She did indeed quit it all when she was at the top - feature stories in Newsweek, hit records, a Broadway show, Judy Garland show appearance, pre Joplin influence, etc.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. After being with Judy for some time, my Mother sent me a article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer (78?) in which Bette Midler was asked "who exactly is 'The Rose"? - Bette said that the Rose was .."a combination of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Judy Henske". In Cleveland she told the truth, but she never credited Judy again out here in L.A. or N.Y.

I'll will never forget showing the Cleveland news article to Judy here in Pasadena. I said "what do you think?...and Judy read it, paused, and then said "I think I'm the only one still alive- (and,imo, she thought it was because she quit to raise Kate.)

Bette did record a song we wrote, "Yellow Beach Umbrella" and, while the royalty checks were nice, we both disliked how she did it. All the subtlety and melancholy inherent in the song was lost, and it sounded like a pop-tune-commercial for Alka Seltzer. Writing the song is one thing - anothers' interpretation is always a crap shoot.

Later on, Bette drove herself out to our house for dinner one night, and to cherry pick our new songs (she wanted one badly; which we didn't give her) That new song was "Master of Love", which Judy did on Loose In the World" We could of made some money giving it to Bette, but once you allow any other artist to do your tune it becomes public domain - and anyone can record it. We were selfish and arrogant for that moment, and wanted to save the song for Judy.

I might have been in a same crowd as you at La Cave, as that is the club where I first met Judy -I was a substitute piano player in her traveling band there while on Christmas break from my junior year at Trinity (Hartford) 1965

I apologize for this note ramlbing on, but I am glad to try and sign up into your blog enterprize, and very impressed with your writings, and the scope of what you and your partners have created. Congratulations on such prescient work, and I look forward to checking in on your thoughts covering a variety of subjects dear to both Judy and me.

Best regards,

Alex Gildzen said...

Craig --

what a thrill to have you comment. for those who mite be reading this & don't know: Craig Doerge produces Judy's CDs. they write songs together. they sang in Rosebud together. & they're a couple.

& I had no idea you were from Cleveland. & to think that you met Judy at the same place where I saw her for the only time.... I mean my work is all abt connections but that one's too much.

anyway let me know where you're appearing next year. that'll be the 40th anniversary of that nite at La Cave. seems like time for a fricking reunion to me.

sexy said...
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D.R. Wagner said...

A lovely exchange on your Henske article. I too spent a bit of a time at La Cave while in Cleveland. I missed seeing Henske but connected with her work early on and didn't know she continued to record. I will certainly buy the newer work.
I had an interesting encounter at La Cave. I hit on Judy Collins one evening. I loved her singing and voce and hung around to talk to her. She turned me down but many years later I met her again and told her the story. She was amused and asked me, "Was I polite?" I thought it was a very sweet comeback to such a comment.

Alex Gildzen said...

what a sweet memory D.R.