Judee Sill Sings “Lopin’ Along Through The Cosmos”

Judee SillHere’s a clip of L.A-based  orchestral pop meets the hymn book singer-songwriter Judee Sill. It’s “Lopin’ Along Through the Cosmos” a deep-cut featured on her 1971 self-titled record Judee Sill. It would be only one of two records that would be released during her lifetime.

Like many of her songs, this one just bursts with spiritual longing carried by a melody that flows like honey, while also falling between the cracks of  standard musical pigeonholes. Luckily for Sill, a boom in contemplative singer-songwriters was happening around the time she was writing songs. So she was the first to be signed to David Geffen’s now-famous Asylum label, home to many now associated with the era of classic confessional songwriting centered around Los Angeles.

Of course, Judee Sill took a less than conventional path to being signed to a successful record label. She pursued her career after a teenaged period of getting into trouble, landing herself in reform schools, and using hard drugs. Songwriting was her way out.

And with that in mind, it’s a wonder that her music doesn’t sound more jaded. In fact, it sounds completely the opposite. As evidenced by “Lopin’ Along Through The Cosmos”,  this is the voice of an idealist, a dreamer who perhaps doesn’t expect the best, but hopes for it anyway. And Judee Sill certainly had reason to doubt it. Read more

Judee Sill Sings ‘The Kiss’

Here’s a clip of Judee Sill singing her song ‘The Kiss’ in 1973, a standout track from the album Heart Food, released that year.

Hover over the image and click the ‘play’ button. Enlarge the viewing window by clicking on the magnifying glass icon.

Judee Sill

Judee Sill is looked upon by many as a sort of female Nick Drake, being somewhat of a tragic figure who completed only a small body of work before passing away. Sill made two records which were given a release during her lifetime; 1971’s Judee Sill and the aforementioned Heart Food. A third album, the existence of which was little more than a rumour at one time, was only recently released under the name Dreams Come True which incorporates songs intended for the original release along with bonus tracks.

Although her music is similar in feel to Nick Drake’s in some ways – lots of strings, acoustic guitar, and melancholy to match – Sill’s is distinctly more American-sounding, incorporating a lot of Western music (as in country and…) and choral music (achieved with choirs of multitracked Judees), while featuring lyrics with some fairly overt references to spiritual concerns. She was championed by Graham Nash, who was a big fan after hearing her music on the then-fledgling Asylum label, the home of a lot of singer-songwriters at the time. He produced her hit ‘Jesus Was a Crossmaker’.

My favourite track of hers is “Lopin’ Along Through the Cosmos”; a poignant, and beautiful rumination on being in a state of spiritual longing. I actually discovered her through an unlikely (on the surface at least) source. I read an interview with Andy Partridge of XTC, who is also a fan. When you hear some of the orchestral arrangements on the XTC album Apple Venus, Vol. 1, the connection with Sill becomes pretty clear. This is particularly true on a song like ‘Knights in Shining Karma‘ and ‘The Last Balloon’ on that album.

One of the things which makes Judee Sill’s music so compelling is understanding the background of the artist herself. Her heavy involvement in hard drugs offset her more tender spiritual yearnings as reflected in her music. The contrast between the two worlds she inhabited – music and heroin – give you the sense that these songs meant more than just a career for her. It must have been part of her struggle to remain in the light too.

Despite her efforts, she disappeared into the LA underground by the end of the 70s and died of an overdose. But, we’ve got her music now.

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And in addition folks, here’s a great related post – a story of a fan finding Judee Sill’s music, along with a chance to hear her song ‘Jesus Was a Crossmaker‘. Enjoy!