Judy Henske, a fixture of the ‘60s folk-revival scene, died on April 27 in hospice care in Los Angeles after a protracted sickness, in line with her husband, Craig Doerge.
The imposing, six-foot-plus-tall Heske commanded the stage, combining conventional materials like “Wade within the Water” and “Love Henry” with an onstage act marked by frank, witty on-stage banter. Her 1964 single “Excessive Flying Fowl” anticipated the psychedelic blues of rising rock singers like Janis Joplin and Grace Slick.
Dubbed “The Queen of the Beatniks” by producer Jack Nitzsche, Henske’s sarcasm was reportedly channeled by Woody Allen for Diane Keaton’s title character in “Annie Corridor,” who not coincidentally additionally got here from Chippewa Falls. Henske would typically seem on double payments at L.A. espresso homes such because the Unicorn on Sundown Strip alongside comics like Allen and Lenny Bruce. Crime fiction writer Andrew Vachss included her as a musical leitmotif in a sequence of novels. Her mates included such legendary figures as Phil Ochs, Jackson Browne, movie critic Pauline Kael, author Eve Babitz and Shel Silverstein. In Vachss’ novel “Blue Belle,” he wrote: “If Linda Ronstadt’s a torch singer, Henske’s a flame thrower.”
Judith Anne Henske was born December 20, 1936, in small-town Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, her father a health care provider and mom a homemaker. She started to pursue music at Rosary Faculty in River Forest, Illinois, and the College of Wisconsin-Madison. By 1959, she had relocated to San Diego, the place she carried out at native espresso homes earlier than shifting on to venues in Los Angeles, gaining discover for her full throttle, foot-stomping, hard-belting supply of people ballads.
Whereas performing in Oklahoma Metropolis in 1962, Henske was recruited by ex-Kingston Trio member Dave Guard to affix the Whisky Hill Singers, with whom she recorded an album. Via her supervisor, the infamous Herb Cohen (who managed Frank Zappa), she was signed as a solo artist to Elektra Data by Jac Holzman, releasing a pair of albums that mixed people, blues, jazz, and standup comedy. The primary of those, a recording of a nightclub efficiency, highlighted the offbeat humor in her dwell performances with musical preparations by Onzy Matthews; the second featured Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Excessive Flying Fowl,” a minor hit in 1963 that was later coated by a number of bands, together with Jefferson Airplane.
Henske’s notable tv appearances throughout this time included a featured spot on “The Judy Garland Present” and a job reverse Johnny Money within the 1963 folksploitation movie, “Hootenanny Hoot.” The next yr, she performed the lead in “Gogo Loves You,” an Off-Broadway musical written by “Gents Choose Blondes” writer Anita Loos.
After releasing albums on Mercury and Reprise, Henske started to focus on her songwriting. Her literate contact as a lyricist discovered expression on “Farewell Aldebaran,” launched on Zappa’s Straight label in 1969. Henske’s whisper-to-a-scream model — a product of the swirling psych-baroque manufacturing of her first husband, composer Jerry Yester — made it a favourite amongst people cultists. In 1971, she co-founded and recorded with Rosebud, a folk-rock quintet that launched an eponymous album on Straight Data.
Following that, Henske turned away from recording and performing in favor of elevating her daughter, Kate. She shifted her focus to lyrics, collaborating on songs with keyboardist and composer, Craig Doerge (whom she married in 1973). “Yellow Seashore Umbrella” (coated by Three Canine Evening and Bette Midler), “Would possibly as Properly Have a Good Time” (recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash) and “Sauvez-Moi” (a chart-topping single in France for Johnny Hallyday) have been among the many pair’s most profitable efforts.
The ‘90s discovered Henske performing small membership dates round Los Angeles. As a journalist, she wrote function articles for the San Diego Reader and different publications.
In 1999, Henske returned to recording with “Unfastened within the World,” adopted by “She Sang California” in 2004. In 2007, Rhino Data launched “Large Judy: How Far This Music Goes, 1962-2004,” a two-CD profession retrospective.
In 2013, cabaret artist Meredith Di Menna introduced her present “Queen of the Beatniks: The Songs of Judy Henske” to nightclub phases in New York. The Los Angeles dance firm BodyTraffic premiered “Death Defying Dances,” a choreographed manufacturing impressed by Henske’s early recordings, in 2016.
In her final years, Henske labored on a memoir of her life and experiences. She continued to put in writing songs as nicely.
In 2013 Henske instructed a reporter from her hometown Chippewa Herald how she mixed humor and music in her act, “I preferred when individuals have been engaged, and so they present it with laughter and never simply clapping. It didn’t sound like individuals simply sitting lifeless of their seats, admiring you. It was alive.”
Henske is survived by Doerge, daughter Kate DeLaPointe and granddaughter Claire DeLaPointe. Plans for a memorial are pending.
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