Yesterday, when I shared my return-from-holidays blog post of a song by Nanci Griffith (1953-2021) on my Facebook wall, I made a comment that more summer stories would follow.
Well, Judy Collins’ “The Blizzard,” her tribute ballad to the beautiful state of Colorado, USA isn’t a summer song by any stretch, but it does evoke summer memories…
“The Blizzard” is also one of Sweety’s and my favourite songs. So, of course, it is on the CD compilation we handed out to guests at our wedding reception. (Check out my posts on “Lovers in Japan,” “Late Night Grande Hotel”(also by Griffith), “Goodnight,” “When You’re Gone,” and “Stay By Me” for some other selections from that disc.)
This summer, the song popped up on random play a few times during our weekly trips to Patricia Beach Provincial Park, where we’d arrive mid-to-late-afternoon to sit in the sun and read, and play in the water, later dining on a cheese, bread, veggie and fruit picnic. We’d reluctantly leave that blissful place just as the sun began to set, sometimes stopping for ice cream on the way home.
I also recall a moment of serendipity related to the song: On summer holidays in 2016 with one of my British cousins and her husband, we were on the highway somewhere in Alberta, bound for the Rockies when I saw a Colorado licence plate on a passing car just as Collins sang, right on cue, “Colorado, Colorado…” (That trip was by design and on demand almost identical to one we took with the cousin’s sister, husband and daughter in 2009 when they travelled to Canada for our wedding.)
“The Blizzard” also brings to mind some dear friends, one I’ve known for many years and others I’ve met online during the pandemic, who all live in Colorado. In her story, Collins sings of a few places in the Centennial State: Estes Park, Berthoud, Denver, and the Peak to Peak Highway. I’ve always loved the song but now it has an added layer, recalling those folks and the places that I travelled to with three buddies to visit our friend there in 2012, and thinking of the many more places I hope to see there with my sweety, sometime soon.
“The Blizzard” comes from Collins’ 1990 album Fires of Eden, and is also included on several compilation albums, two Christmas/winter albums (one of these in 2019, with Jonas Fjeld and Chatham County Line, which is also her most recent album), and a motion picture soundtrack.
The Fires of Eden version is seven minutes and thirty-one seconds long, while all the other versions are almost a minute shorter. I much prefer the original version; right from the first few notes, the introduction is more smooth and welcoming, and the added length brings a magnificent spaciousness that I find quite remarkable, as Collins tells the story of a woman driving in the Southern Rocky Mountains when a blizzard is developing, and how she meets and spends an evening (and the night, it seems) with the mysterious but kind and vulnerable “dark-headed stranger.”
Judy Collins released her first album in 1961 (A Maid of Constant Sorrow), and has a new album in the works, for release this year. What an amazingly long career! It is such a gift that we still have this singer-songwriter sharing her craft with the world.
Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here is a video of Collins performing the song in concert in 1989, from her official YouTube channel:
And, here’s the studio recording:
Official lyrics are available at judycollins.com.