We’re going to see Judy Collins at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis this week. We’re pretty excited about it. The last time she came through I missed her, and Dakota proprietor Lowell Pickett made a point of letting me know I should have been there. We’re not making the same mistake twice.
Judy’s In My Life, Wildflowers and Who Knows Where the Time Goes represent a few of the highlights of sixties pop music. They turned Judy Collins from a folksinger into an art singer.
The title track of Who Knows was written by Sandy Denny and recorded by Fairport Convention on the group’s Unhalfbricking album. In my opinion, the Denny/Fairport version of “Who Knows?” is perfect, but Collins puts the song over with her crystalline voice backed by a cast of instrumental all-stars (in Richie Unterburger’s words) including Stephen Stills, James Burton, Chris Etheridge, Van Dyke Parks and Jim Gordon. In her memoir Collins says that “Stephen’s sweet guitar work on the title track pulls back the curtain on its tragic beauty[.]”
Collins’s Who Knows was released in November 1968; Fairport’s Unhalfbricking didn’t come out until May 1969. In her memoir she recalls that she “first heard Denny sing [the song] on a little cassette player in [album producer] David Anderle’s office at Elektra.” I’m guessing she heard Denny’s 1967 demo of the song.
I learn from Wikipedia that Elektra released two versions of the song: “Version 1 with only vocal, two guitars, and bass appeared on the B side of ‘Both Sides Now,’ on the soundtrack to the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses, and on the compilation album Colors of the Day. Version 2 is a composite. The first verse is the same take as version 1, but with everything remixed to the left channel, and it then crossfades to a different recording with a larger arrangement and modulates to different key. Version 2 appears on the album Who Knows Where the Time Goes?.” Version two appears in the video above.