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Judee Sill's Posthumous 'Dreams'


In the early 1970s, singer-songwriter Judee Sill seemed headed for big things. She had talent and backing from the record label behind Jackson Browne and The Eagles. But Sill's career fizzled after two albums, and she died in obscurity. Now more than 30 years after her debut, Sill's music is being rediscovered. There is a new two-CD set of previously unreleased music, and David Greenberger has a review.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. JUDEE SILL: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).


The CD is called "Dreams Come True," and when you listen to it, it's hard to understand why Judee Sill's never did. Her records in the early '70s received critical acclaim, drawing comparisons with such well-known contemporaries as Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Laura Nyro.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SILL: (Singing) The sweetest rapture ...(unintelligible) capture (unintelligible) my heart in the westward direction of my own resurrection.

GREENBERGER: By any measure, Judee Sill had a difficult life. She grew up in a troubled home, spent time in a girls' reform school after robbing a string of gas stations, and later became addicted to heroin. In the late 1960s, Sill emerged drug-free and determined to get serious about her music career. She started playing clubs around Los Angeles, and ultimately attracted the attention of David Geffen. He was starting a new label, Asylum Records, and her album became the company's first release.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SILL: (Singing) Can't you hear the pristine cry shaking the clouded sky (unintelligible) of mine ...(unintelligible).

GREENBERGER: Asylum Records became a pantheon of West Coast talent. Singers and songwriters like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell all recorded for Asylum. But unlike many of her colleagues, Sill's records didn't sell. While other Asylum artists were writing songs about peaceful easy feelings, Judee Sill was grappling with thornier issues: Christian mysticism, theosophy and the occult. After hearing her third recording, the label decided not to release it. She left the music business and, in 1979, died of a heroin overdose.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SILL: (Singing) Lean your head over, and have no fear. Hope springs eternal to all the ears that hear ...(unintelligible) almost 2,000 years. And someday ...(unintelligible)...

GREENBERGER: It's staggering that music this beautiful could have languished in underground circles, unreleased for almost 30 years. Now this long-lost record and her first two efforts are all available. Judee Sill has written songs that are so perfect and so full of emotional life that, once heard, it's hard to imagine having lived without them.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SILL: (Singing) Everywhere beauty is ...(unintelligible).

SIEGEL: The recording is called "Dreams Come True" by Judee Sill. Our reviewer is David Greenberger.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SILL: (Singing) ...(unintelligible) dream. And each one (unintelligible).

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greenberger