Folk Singer Judy Henske Passed Away At 85

Folk Singer Judy Henske Passed Away At 85 | Society Of Rock Videos

via 6MickTravis9 / Youtube

Judy Henske, a legend who made a name in the folk-revival scene of the early 1960s, died on April 27 at age 85 in hospice care in Los Angeles after a long illness. Her death was confirmed by her husband, Craig Doerge.

Born in small-town, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, December 20, 1936, Henske moved to San Diego in 1959 and began performing in local clubs and coffee houses. She opened for Lenny Bruce at the Los Angeles club the Unicorn and landed a guest shot on ABC’s Hootenanny TV show.

In 1962, she moved to Oklahoma City, where she caught the attention of ex-Kingston Trio member Dave Guard and asked her to join the Whiskeyhill Singers and recorded an album. Later on, she was signed as a solo artist by Jac Holzman of Elektra Records. She released two albums that combined folk, blues, jazz, and standup comedy.

Her debut album Judy Henske was released in 1963, and on the same year, she appeared in the musical comedy film Hootenanny Hoot, playing herself, alongside Johnny Cash. She also played a lead role in a off-Broadway musical “Gogo Loves You,” and had a notable television appearances on The Judy Garland Show as well.

While performing on the stages in New York, Henske would frequently encounter Woody Allen, and became his inspiration for the character in his Oscar-winning 1977 movie Annie Hall, which is about the aspiring singer from Chippewa Falls.

On her second album, she released a minor hit featuring Billy Edd Wheeler’s “High Flying Bird,” it was later covered by acts like Jefferson Airplane, Gram Parsons, and Neil Young. Henske then moved to California and released 1966’s The Death Defying Judy Henske, along with several singles that were arranged and produced by Jack Nitzsche, who dubbed her the “Queen of the Beatniks.”

In 1969, Henske began to focus on her songwriting and she released the psychedelic folk album Farewell Aldebaran for Frank Zappa’s Straight Records. Jumping to 1971, she co-founded and released an album with a quintet called Rosebud along with her first husband, composer Jerry Yester.

In 1973, she married composer and keyboardist Craig Doerge and collaborated with him. The couple wrote “Yellow Beach Umbrella,” which was later covered by Three Dog Night and Bette Midler, and “Might as Well Have a Good Time,” later recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash.

She performed in small venues in the early ’90s and went back to recording in 1999 with Loose in the World, followed by She Sang California in 2004. In 2007, Rhino Records released a two-CD album following Henske’s career, Big Judy: How Far This Music Goes, 1962-2004.

In her last years, Henske worked on a memoir of her life and experiences and continued writing songs. Henske said in a 2013 interview with The Chippewa Herald:

“I’ve done pretty well in my life, and it’s been very fun. I followed my bliss.”

Henske is survived by Doerge, daughter Kate DeLaPointe and granddaughter Claire DeLaPointe.

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