October 19, 1998 12:00 PM

A Memoir of Love, Loss, Hope and Healing

by Judy Collins

Judy Collins’s smooth, silvery voice was a rare, calming force in the stormy 1960s. But along with the professional highs Collins reached with hits like “Both Sides Now” and “Send in the Clowns,” there were plenty of private lows as well, including a difficult divorce, her own alcoholism, which she finally conquered in 1978, and the drug problems suffered by her son Clark, who committed suicide in 1992 at age 33.

Raised on the West Coast and in Colorado, Collins inherited the will to perform from her father, a beloved, and blind, Seattle radio personality. Unfortunately, he also bequeathed to her his predilection for drink. Despite Collins’s early career success and her high-profile romances with actor Stacy Keach and singer Stephen Stills, she nearly drowned in her own sadness. Ironically, it was Clark, upon finding her early one morning in 1977 drinking vodka out of a coffee cup, who helped her face her problem. “My son looked at me,” Collins writes, “looked at my coffee cup, looked at the clock, and said, ‘Do you know what time it is, Mom?’ ” Singing Lessons is candid and elegantly written. Since Clark’s death, Collins, now 59, has remarried and continued recording (the book includes a CD sampler)—but it is the memory of her late son that ultimately keeps her grounded. (Pocket, $25)

Bottom Line: Singer’s memoir has perfect pitch

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