’60s folk icon Judy Henske (“High Flying Bird”), RIP
'60s folk icon Judy Henske has died at the age of 85 after a long illness. She helped influence the folk rock boom of the era, and she also penned the 1963 song "High Flying Bird," which was famously covered by Jefferson Airplane (whose performance of it at the Monterey Pop Festival was included in D.A. Pennebaker's film documenting the festival), performed by Richie Havens at Woodstock, and inspired the name of Noel Gallagher's band High Flying Birds. Variety reports:
Judy Henske, a fixture of the ‘60s folk-revival scene, died on April 27 in hospice care in Los Angeles after a long illness, according to her husband, Craig Doerge.
The imposing, six-foot-plus-tall Heske commanded the stage, combining traditional material like “Wade in the Water” and “Love Henry” with an onstage act marked by frank, witty on-stage banter. Her 1964 single “High Flying Bird” anticipated the psychedelic blues of emerging 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 Hall,” who not coincidentally also came from Chippewa Falls. Henske would often appear on double bills at L.A. coffee houses such as the Unicorn on Sunset Strip alongside comics like Allen and Lenny Bruce. Crime fiction author Andrew Vachss included her as a musical leitmotif in a series of novels. Her friends included such legendary figures as Phil Ochs, Jackson Browne, film critic Pauline Kael, writer Eve Babitz and Shel Silverstein. In Vachss’ novel “Blue Belle,” he wrote: “If Linda Ronstadt’s a torch singer, Henske’s a flame thrower.”
Judy stayed prolific as the scene that she helped inspire grew, and in 1969 she and her then-husband Jerry Yester released the cult-classic psychedelic album Farewell Aldebaran on Frank Zappa's label. After a long hiatus, she returned to music in the late 1990s and early 2000s, during which time she released her two final albums.
Rest in peace, Judy.