Folk singer Judy Henske dies at 85
Judy Henske, a legendary figure in the folk revival movement of the 1960s, died on April 27 at the age of 85. Her husband, Craig Doerge, said Henske died while in hospice care in Los Angeles after a long illness.
Henske, who was born in Chippewa Falls, Wis., in 1936, moved to San Diego in 1959, where she began performing at local coffeehouses and landed a guest picture on ABC. hootenanny TV show. She then moved to Oklahoma City in 1962, where her powerful and dramatic vocal style caught the attention of former Kingston Trio member Dave Guard, who asked her to join the Whiskeyhill Singers.
The band recorded an album before Jac Holzman of Elektra Records noticed Henske and signed her as a solo. She released two albums with the label which included a mix of folk, blues, jazz and stand-up comedy. The second album yielded the minor hit “High Flying Bird”, which was later covered by artists like Jefferson Airplane, Gram Parsons and Neil Young.
Henske moved again, this time to New York City, where she performed at legendary folk venues like the Village Gate and the Bitter End. She also appeared in a first episode of The Judy Garland Show. (She declined an offer of a regular role on the program.) In 1963, she appeared opposite Johnny Cash in the musical comedy film Hootenanny Hoot. Henske also frequently shared scenes in New York with Woody Allenwho drew on his personality and background for his Oscar-winning 1977 film Annie Hall. (The film’s main character is an aspiring singer from Chippewa Falls.)
Listen to “High Flying Bird” by Judy Henske
In 1963, Henske married musician Jerry Yester, who later joined the Lovin’ Spoonfuls. After moving to California, she recorded a second live album, 1966’s Death defying Judy Henskeas well as several singles arranged and produced by Jack Nitzsche, who dubbed her the “Queen of the Beatniks”.
With Yester, she released the psychedelic folk album Farewell Aldebaran for Frank Zappa’s Straight Records, a cult record known for its early use of synthesizers. The couple then formed a quintet called Rosebud, which released a self-titled album in 1971.
Henske stepped away from the stage to focus on songwriting, often collaborating with her second husband, Doerge. They wrote “Yellow Beach Umbrella”, which was later covered by Three Dog Night and Bette Midler, as well as “Might as Well Have a Good Time”, later recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Henske spent the 90s performing in small venues, before returning to recorded music in 1999 with Free in the worldfollowed by She sang California in 2004. “I’ve been pretty successful in my life, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Henske said in a 2013 interview with The Chippewa Herald. “I followed my happiness.”
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