Judee Sill

Judee Sill (born Judith Lynne Sill, October 7, 1944 – November 23, 1979) was an American singer and songwriter. The first artist signed to David Geffen's Asylum label, she released two albums on Asylum and partially completed a third album before dying of a drug overdose in 1979. Her eponymous debut album was released in late 1971 and was followed about 18 months later by Heart Food. In 1974 she recorded demos for a third album, which was never completed. The demos were posthumously released with other rarities on the 2005 two-disc collection Dreams Come True.

Sill was heavily influenced by Bach, especially his suites, while lyrically her work drew substantially on Christian themes of rapture and redemption.[3]

Judee Sill
Judee Sill
Background information
Birth nameJudith Lynne Sill[1]
BornOctober 7, 1944
Studio City, Los Angeles, California, United States
DiedNovember 23, 1979 (aged 35)
North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
GenresFolk rock, country rock, roots rock, baroque pop
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, organ, bass guitar[2]


Early life and troubles

Judith Lynne Sill was born in Studio City, California, on October 7, 1944, and spent her early childhood in the Oakland area.[3][4] Her father, Milford "Bun" Sill, an importer of exotic animals for use in films, owned a bar in Oakland, in which Sill learned to play the piano.[4]

When he died of pneumonia in 1952, Sill's mother Oneta moved with Judee and her older brother Dennis to Los Angeles, where Oneta soon met and married Tom and Jerry animator Kenneth Muse.[4][5][6]

In a 1972 Rolling Stone magazine interview, Sill described her home life after her mother's remarriage as unhappy and frequently violent due to physical fights between Sill and her parents.[5] She transferred from a public high school to a private school, where she met other rebellious teenagers, some of whom were allegedly involved in crime. Either during high school or after her graduation (depending on the source), Sill and a man she had met committed a series of armed robberies of businesses such as liquor stores and gas stations.[5][6] Sill and her robbery partner were soon arrested and she spent nine months in reform school, where she served as church organist[6] and "learned a lot of good music" including gospel music.[5]

After being released, Sill briefly attended San Fernando Valley Junior College as an art major. She also played piano in the school orchestra and worked in a piano bar.[4][5][6][7] At some point between 1963 and 1965 (depending on the source), her mother died,[5][6][7] and she left college and moved out of her stepfather's home. She started doing LSD and other drugs, moved in with an LSD dealer and joined a jazz trio.[4][7]

In April 1966, Sill married pianist Robert Maurice "Bob" Harris.[8] The couple lived in Las Vegas for a time, but both developed crippling heroin addictions within months. When Sill moved back to California, she resorted to sex work, scams, and check forgery to support her habit.[5] A string of narcotics and forgery offenses sent her to jail, and she learned that her brother Dennis had suddenly died.[5][6] When she got out, she immediately set to work as a song composer.[4][5]

Music career

Sill encountered Graham Nash and David Crosby and toured with them for a time as their opening act. After some initial interest from Atlantic Records,[6] David Geffen offered her a contract with his new Asylum label. She sold her song "Lady-O" to the Turtles, and was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. Harris worked on her first album and was also involved with the Turtles[6] (which led to his short stint as keyboardist with Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention in 1971).

Graham Nash produced her first album's first single, "Jesus was a Cross Maker", which was released to radio on October 1, 1971. The album, Judee Sill, was released on September 15, 1971. It featured Sill's voice in multiple overdubs, often in a four-part chorale or fugue. She worked with engineer Henry Lewy, noted for his work with Joni Mitchell throughout the 1970s. The album was not a commercial success.

Sill took over the orchestration and arrangements on her second album, Heart Food, which included "The Donor". Heart Food was released in March 1973 and was critically acclaimed, but sold poorly, leading to the end of her association with Geffen and Asylum Records. Sill's friends have said that she lacked the resilience to cope with poor album sales and bad reviews of her work, and that she was dropped after she refused to perform as an opening act, a task she disliked.[2][7][9] According to another source, Geffen pulled support for Heart Food and refused to release any more of her records after Sill, frustrated over what she perceived as his lack of support for her career, publicly referred to him using a gay slur (she either called Geffen "fat fag” on stage or referred to his “faggoty pink shoes”).[10]

She continued to write songs, and in 1974 began to record new material for a planned third album. By this time, Sill was once again suffering from drug abuse and other health problems, and her music was not regarded as marketable. She also was beginning to lose interest in music and focus on other pursuits, including theosophy and animals.[7] In the mid-1970s she worked for a time as a cartoonist with a Los Angeles animation studio.[11] Her 1974 recordings were never finished. Twenty-six years after Sill's 1979 death, the unfinished songs were mixed by Jim O'Rourke and released, along with a collection of rarities and home demos, as the album Dreams Come True on the Water label.

Personal life and death

Sill's personal life was turbulent, and she was affected by the early deaths of her father, mother and brother. Sill claimed to have been married twice, saying in interviews that she was briefly married either during or just after high school to a classmate, that her parents had the marriage annulled, and that he later died in a rafting accident.[2][5] A friend of Sill's has written that she claimed to have married her robbery partner as a teenager.[7] Sill's second marriage was to Robert Maurice "Bob" Harris on April 27, 1966 in Clark County, Nevada.[8] They divorced in 1972.[5]

Sill was openly bisexual and had relationships with both men and women.[6][7][12] Her romance with singer-songwriter J. D. Souther inspired her song "Jesus Was a Cross Maker".[6][13] Souther later wrote the song "Something in the Dark" about her.[14] She had a long-term relationship with poet David Omer Bearden, who contributed lyrics to Heart Food and toured and performed with her; Sill dedicated Heart Food to him.[10][15] As Asylum's first published artist, Sill also had a close friendship with David Geffen,[6] which went awry after comments she made in frustration at not receiving enough promotion for her second UK tour.[10]

After a series of car accidents and failed surgery for a painful back injury, Sill struggled with drug addiction and dropped out of the music scene.[3] She died of a drug overdose, or "acute cocaine and codeine intoxication," on November 23, 1979, at her apartment on Morrison Street in North Hollywood. The Los Angeles coroner ruled her death a suicide, taking into account a note found near her body, but some who knew her have contended that the note, which reportedly contained "a meditation on rapture, the hereafter, and the innate mystery of life", was not a suicide note but rather a diary entry or song concept.[3] Her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean after a ceremony organized by a few close friends at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades.[16] According to a 2005 Washington Post story, by the time of Sill's death, she had become so obscure that no obituary was published, and for many years a number of her friends were unaware she had died.[3]

Influence and legacy

Although Sill's music was not commercially successful, a number of later songwriters have been fans of her work, including Andy Partridge, Liz Phair, Warren Zevon, and Shawn Colvin.[3][6] She was also included in The Billboard Guide to Contemporary Christian Music; her faith was debatable, but she made frequent use of Christian symbolism in her lyrics, combined with a "lack of sensuality" and the "denial of the physical".[11] Her music has been described as "intensely devotional".[3]

A BBC Radio 4 program titled The Lost Genius of Judee Sill was broadcast on September 9, 2014.[17]

Singer-songwriter Laura Veirs's "Song for Judee", on the 2016 album case/lang/veirs, is about Sill's life and death. In an interview with CBC music, Veirs said of the track, "We weren’t sure we were going to track this one because not everyone in the band loved it. We recorded it on a whim and all fell in love with it. It’s about a tragic songwriter from the ’70s named Judee Sill. I love how the bouncy chorus offsets the darkness of her story."

Posthumous reissues and releases

Terry Hounsome's 1981 book New Rock Record lists a Sill album titled Tulips From Amsterdam. Unsure of the information's source, Hounsome later removed the listing from his database.[18]

Sill appears on Tommy Peltier's Chariot of Astral Light (featuring Judee Sill), which was recorded in the 1970s but not released until 2005 on the Black Beauty label. She contributed guitar, organ and backing vocals to six tracks on the album and is pictured with Peltier on the cover.[19] Also in 2005, Sill's unfinished recordings, mixed by Jim O'Rourke, were released along with other rarities and unreleased demos as Dreams Come True, a 2-CD set on Water Records. Sill's two original albums, Judee Sill and Heart Food, were also released that year as individual CDs, each with bonus tracks, on the Rhino Handmade label. The next year, Rhino released Abracadabra: The Asylum Years, a 2-CD set of both albums with bonus tracks.

In 2007, an album of Sill's live performance tracks performed for the BBC was released as Live in London: The BBC Recordings 1972-1973.

In 2017 independent record label Intervention Records released 180-gram double 45rpm LP reissues of Sill’s self-titled album and Heart Food.[20]


"Jesus Was a Cross Maker" has been covered by the Hollies on their 1972 album Romany; by Cass Elliot on her self-titled 1972 album; by Warren Zevon on his 1995 album Mutineer; and by Rachael Yamagata in 2005 for the soundtrack of the Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown, in which Yamagata's version is played over the opening credits. The soundtrack album for the film contains versions by both Yamagata and the Hollies.

Shawn Colvin performed "There's a Rugged Road" on her 1994 collection of covers, Cover Girl.[21]

Jane Siberry contributed vocals to a cover of "The Kiss" for Ghostland's album Interview With The Angel.[22] This version was also released on Siberry's 2001 compilation City.[23]"The Kiss" was also covered by Bonnie "Prince" Billy on his 2004 CD single No More Workhorse Blues; by Neil Cavanagh on his 2008 album Short Flight to a Distant Star;[24] and by Matt Alber, using Sill's original piano arrangement, on his 2011 album Constant Crows.[25]

In 2009, the independent label American Dust announced the release of Crayon Angel: A Tribute to the Music of Judee Sill, featuring covers of Sill's songs done by Beth Orton, Bill Callahan, Ron Sexsmith, Daniel Rossen, Final Fantasy, Marissa Nadler, Frida Hyvönen and Meg Baird, among others.[26]

In November 2016, in conjunction with Record Store Day,[27] the Fruit Bats released The Glory of the Fruit Bats, a limited edition LP comprising previously unreleased originals, select covers, and cinematic instrumentals, including a cover of "My Man on Love" from Sill's 1971 debut album.


  • Judee Sill (LP, Asylum, 1971)
  • Heart Food (LP, Asylum, 1973)
  • Dreams Come True (2CD, Water, 2005). Includes eight studio demos for a prospective third album, various home demos and a video clip of five songs live at USC in 1973.
  • Judee Sill (CD, Rhino Handmade, 2005). Contains the original album plus original versions of two songs, seven live versions and a home demo. Edition of 5000 copies.
  • Heart Food (CD, Rhino Handmade, 2005). Contains the original album plus an outtake and eight demo versions. Edition of 5000 copies.
  • Abracadabra: The Asylum Years (2CD, Rhino, 2006). Combines Judee Sill and Heart Food with bonus tracks.
  • Live in London: The BBC Recordings 1972-1973 (CD, Troubadour, 2007). Contains solo live songs performed for the BBC, and an interview with Bob Harris.
  • Songs of Rapture and Redemption: Rarities & Live (2xLP, Run Out Groove, 2018). Contains seven tracks performed live at the Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA, 10/3/71, and twelve outtakes and demos.


  1. ^ California Births, 1905 - 1995, Judith Lynne Sill
  2. ^ a b c Russell, Rosalind (8 April 1972). "A Sill-y Story". Disc and Music Echo. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Page, Tim (December 30, 2006). "A Brief Life, an Enduring Musical Impression". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Crumsho, Michael. "The Life and Times of Judee Sill". Dusted Magazine. Retrieved Aug 12, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lewis, Grover (April 13, 1972). "Judee Sill: Soldier of the Heart". Rolling Stone. San Francisco, CA: Jann Wenner. Archived from the original on April 29, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hoskyns, Barney (December 12, 2004). "The Lost Child". The Observer. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g D. (September 22, 1999). "Judee Sill profile". kneeling.co.uk. Archived from the original on June 29, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Person Details for Judith Lynn Sill, "Nevada, Marriage Index, 1956-2005"". Familysearch.org. Retrieved 2014-06-30.(subscription required)
  9. ^ Dudgeon, Gus (September 22, 1999). "Judee Sill". kneeling.co.uk. Archived from the original on October 27, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Saltzman, Michael (2007). "Judee Sill". howlinwuelf.com. Howlin Wuelf Media. Archived from the original on January 11, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  11. ^ a b Alfonso, Barry (2002). The Billboard Guide to Contemporary Christian Music. New York: Billboard Books. pp. 242–243. ISBN 9780823077182.
  12. ^ "Julian Cope presents Head Heritage | Unsung | Reviews | Judee Sill - Abracadabra: The Asylum Years". HeadHeritage.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
  13. ^ Rachel, T. Cole (May 11, 2015). "The Tender Hand of J.D. Souther". Interview. New York: Brant Publications. Archived from the original on November 28, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  14. ^ Smerling, Elli. "The Jonathan Channel: J.D. Souther: Man Behind the Music Steps Out Front". WNYC (New York Public Radio). New York City. Archived from the original on May 18, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  15. ^ "David Bearden & Judee Sill". davidbearden.com. David Omer Bearden: The Apocalypse Rose. 2011. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  16. ^ "Judee Sill". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  17. ^ "The Lost Genius of Judee Sill", BBC Radio 4.
  18. ^ "Judee Sill Unreleased Recordings". Bob Claster. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
  19. ^ Crumsho, Michael (October 30, 2005). "Dusted Reviews – Tommy Peltier – Chariot of Astral Light (featuring Judee Sill)". Dusted Magazine. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  20. ^ "Reviews – Intervention Records". www.interventionrecords.com. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
  21. ^ "Shawn Colvin – Cover Girl". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-09-14.
  22. ^ "Ghostland - Interview With The Angel (CD, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
  23. ^ "Jane Siberry: CITY (collaborations)". Archived from the original on June 29, 2013.
  24. ^ "Bonnie Prince Billy Discography 2004". Users.bart.nl. Archived from the original on 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
  25. ^ "matt-alber-official". Mattalber.com. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  26. ^ "Crayon Angel: A Tribute To The Music of Judee Sill". American Dust. Archived from the original on September 25, 2012. Retrieved June 16, 2009.
  27. ^ "RSD '17 Special Release: Fruit Bats - The Glory of Fruit Bats". www.recordstoreday.com. Retrieved 2017-08-12.

External links

American Dust

American Dust is an independent record label operated out of Oakland, California. Notable artists to have released records on American Dust include Department of Eagles, Port O'Brien and Awesome Color.

In September 2009 the label released the Judee Sill tribute album Crayon Angel: A Tribute to the Music of Judee Sill, featuring covers of Sill's songs by Beth Orton, Bill Callahan, Ron Sexsmith, Daniel Rossen, Marissa Nadler and Meg Baird, among others.

Andy Zax

Andy Zax (born October 16, 1965) is an American music historian and producer of music reissues by Talking Heads, Rod Stewart, Echo & the Bunnymen, Television, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Judee Sill, John Cale, Nico, The Neon Philharmonic, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, The Sisters of Mercy, and Lee Hazlewood, among others. He appeared on the Comedy Central game show Beat the Geeks as the Music Geek.

In 2009, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, Zax produced the boxed set Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, for which he was nominated for a Grammy for Best Historical Album. Zax reconstructed all three days of the Woodstock audio from the original multi-track tapes. By doing so, he was able to establish a definitive setlist for the festival, ending decades of speculation about what order artists had played in and what material they played.Zax was a recurring panelist on the live stage revival of What's My Line? in Los Angeles and New York City from 2004 to 2008. He was also a contestant on the very first episode of the Fox game show Greed on November 4, 1999. When asked what he'd do with the top prize if he were to win, he replied that he'd use it to finish his novel.From October 2006 until May 2007, he hosted a weekly radio program, Archives of Oblivion, described as "a treasure hunt through the scrapheap of mid-20th Century pop-culture ephemera", showcasing his notoriously eccentric record collection.

Bill Callahan discography

This a detailed discography of American singer-songwriter Bill Callahan. All of his work was released under the alias Smog, except where noted.

Bob Harris (musician)

Robert Maurice "Bob" Harris (September 27, 1943 – August 11, 2001) was an American jazz pianist, keyboardist and arranger.

Dreams Come True (Judee Sill album)

Dreams Come True is the third official album release by singer and songwriter Judee Sill. A double CD released on Water Records in 2005, the album mainly contains work originally recorded in the seventies as potential material for a third album on Asylum Records. A combination of Sill's health and drug problems and lack of interest in the market prevented the completion of the album in the seventies but a renewed interest in her work led to the release of this set, which also includes film footage from 1973.

Frida Hyvönen

Frida Hyvönen (born Anna Frida Amanda Hyvönen; 30 December 1977) is a Swedish singer-songwriter.

Heart Food

Heart Food is the second album released by American singer/songwriter and musician Judee Sill. It was released on David Geffen's Asylum label in March 1973 to acclaim but minimal sales. Sill wrote, arranged, and produced the album. As with Judee Sill, it was reissued by Rhino Records in 2003, featuring new liner notes and extra demos and unreleased tracks.

In 2017 Intervention Records reissued Heart Food on 180-gram double 45RPM vinyl. The reissue was lauded by well-known vinyl critic Michael Fremer as being the best version of the album available.

Intervention Records

Intervention Records is an independent record label founded in 2015 by Shane Buettner. The label specializes in high-end vinyl reissues and SACDs.

The company is owned and operated by Shane Buettner.

Judee Sill (album)

Judee Sill is the eponymous debut album by the American singer-songwriter and musician Judee Sill. Released on September 15, 1971, it was the first album on David Geffen's Asylum label. Backing musicians include John Beck and Jim Pons from the Leaves. While the majority of the album was produced by Henry Lewy, Graham Nash handled the duties for the single "Jesus Was a Cross Maker", with his production designed to aim for radio airplay.

In 2017 Intervention Records reissued Judee Sill on 180-gram double 45RPM vinyl. The reissue earned a score of 10 for sound quality from noted vinyl critic Michael Fremer.

Kevin Kelley (musician)

Kevin Daniel Kelley (March 25, 1943 – April 6, 2002) was an American drummer, best known for his work with the rock bands The Byrds and the Rising Sons. Kelley also played drums for Fever Tree, although it is unknown whether he was an official member of the group or not. In addition, he worked as a session musician between 1969 and 1973, playing drums on albums by artists including John Fahey and Phil Ochs. He appears to have retired from the music industry after drumming on Michael Cohen's 1973 album, What Did You Expect? Kelley is the cousin of country rock pioneer and ex-member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman. Kevin Kelley should not be confused with the similarly named Kevin Kelly, another American session musician who played piano for Joan Baez during the Rolling Thunder Revue and guested on albums by Tim Buckley, Judee Sill, Bryn Haworth, and The Babys during the 1970s.

Left Hand Talking

Left Hand Talking is the eighth studio album by the British singer-songwriter Judie Tzuke, released in 1991.

Despite considerable promotion and featuring a re-recording of her best known song, "Stay with Me till Dawn", the album failed to chart. It was the last of Tzuke's albums to be released by a major record label. Her next album, Wonderland, was released on an independent label, and all subsequent albums have been released on her own home label, Big Moon Records.

More Golden Hits

More Golden Hits is a 1970 greatest hits album by American rock band the Turtles. It was released on White Whale Records.

Romany (album)

Romany is an album by The Hollies, the first not to feature their lead singer Allan Clarke, who had left to embark on a solo career and was replaced by Swedish singer Mikael Rickfors, prompting a somewhat radical reshaping of their trademark vocal harmony style. It was also the first Hollies album to feature only one song written or co-written by lead guitarist Tony Hicks, a member of the band's two in-house songwriting teams, Clarke-Hicks-Nash and Clarke-Hicks-Sylvester. Hicks was the only member of those teams to contribute a song to the album; Rickfors was the only other band member to contribute an original composition to it. The U.S. Epic version which reached #84 on the Billboard 200, omitted the track "Lizzy and the Rainman", and has a slightly altered side one track order. "Courage of Your Convictions" was the one song that sounded most like their previous smash hit "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress", but was inexplicably never issued as a single. The cover of Romany shows exactly the same scene as the previous album, but in the winter time as opposed to the summer scene on Distant Light.

As the album was nearing release the members of the group were getting nervous. They made at least three changes in the album, announced a single before retracting it again which held it up for three months before finally seeing release.After the album was released, it sold six times more copies in the first week after its release than any previous Hollies album had sold in a year. It also received more FM airplay than the band had ever got in their previous nine years.


Tuomo is a male given name common in Finland. It is a Finnish version of the name Thomas. Common variations of Tuomo in Finland include Tuomas, Toomas, Tomas and Thoma. The nameday is the 21st of December. As of 2013 there are more than 16,000 people with this name in Finland.

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