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The last time Judy Henske was on stage at the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls, it was for her senior recital as a student at McDonell High School.

“The Heyde Center is so beautiful! It didn’t look this good when I left ... It had the good fortune of getting a facelift — and I haven’t,” joked Henske, a Chippewa Falls native who went on to find nationwide fame as a folk singer/songwriter in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Henske put on a hometown performance Tuesday night as a capstone to the Chippewa County Historical Society’s newest exhibit, showcasing some of the area’s most notable musicians — Henske being one of them.

“I’m very happy to be back here,” Henske told the packed auditorium.

Henske, accompanied on guitar by local musician Jerry Way, performed a number of songs she had written herself, as well as a few other favorites. And while she may be older now, her voice still has a smoky edge. She still stomps out a beat, and has a performance style all her own, with a  unique blend of storytelling and humor.

For her third song, she sang “a vulgar barnyard song” called “Maurice Maurice,” from her 2004 album, “She Sang California.” The song was a plaintive ballad listing all of the absurd misfortunes that befell the family farm since Maurice had left.

“I’m proud of my songs — I probably should be less proud,” Henske joked. “I guess there’s no accounting for taste.”

She also debuted a  new tune she wrote about the famous writer Virginia Woolf.

“It sounds intellectual, doesn’t it? Well, it’s just about her suicide,” Henske quipped, drawing more laughs from the crowd.

Along with her eclectic narratives, Henske’s lyrics also featured sentimental personal references, including “Western Wisconsin,” which touched on childhood memories with her cousin, Nancy McCarthy of Chippewa Falls.

And another song, “Tin Star,” featured the offbeat but honest lyrics, “Truth and beauty aren’t the same thing, after all; the things I’ve been reading on the bathroom wall; are often true; but very seldom beautiful.”

“The songs I have tonight are about my life,” Henske said.

The audience was kept in stitches over Henske’s songs and color commentary, and sang along with a few of the songs.

Before the concert, Historical Society President Dave Gordon read a proclamation from Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman declaring June 4 as Judy Henske Day. And, of course, she was delighted by the recognition.

“I’ve never had a day before,” she said. “I may get greedy and want a week, a month or a year!”

Henske joked that she took particular glee in receiving the news earlier in the day while standing in an old classroom at the Area History Center, formerly McDonell High School, where one of the nuns told her she wouldn’t amount to anything.

“Now I’m going to hell,” she said with a laugh.

After the show, Henske stayed at the Heyde Center to meet with several audience members, who came up to thank her for a great performance, as well as to see if she remembered a few of the people she used to know.

One of those was a former teacher of hers, Gene Krhin of Chippewa Falls.

“She was wonderful,” he said of Tuesday’s concert. “I knew back then she had talent. She hasn’t changed a bit.”

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(5) comments

Bob

I'm her age, never heard of her.

porterwill

She was the idol of Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Stills, Linda Ronstadt,Mama Cass, Cher, and dozens more. She recorded the first "folk-rock" record (High Flying Bird). Bette Midler said "I based my character in "the Rose" on Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Judy Henske". She was on the tonight show many times, "Hootenanny", and one day will be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Chippewa Falls should be proud.

Craig Doerge

Hey, I hear you Bob, & "all the Bobs" in the world;) and I'm married to her...

Your town, and everyone involved with Judy's trip, from Heyde to Herald (esp. Alicia) should know that all your wonderful planning and efforts to showcase "your own" great Judy Henske were successful.

No midwest American town ever had a fan so loving of her home-town, and her growing up in that town, as Judy Henske with Chippewa Falls. Thank you, Chippewa, for making her so welcome. She loved everything about last week. Now she wants to hit the road..;)

Craig

xmt

Hello Craig, I'm an italian fan of Judy and I have a (stupid) question for her. Can you ask her for the truth about two words from a line in her incredible song "Rapture"?
I recently bought "Farewell Aldebaran" CD and I finally enjoy some lyrics, but because of a sure little error, I would love to know from her what actually she sung at this point: "lovers who lie beneath the night sky, neither speak nor HEAR" or "PEER"? And at the end of the song: "her voice in the HEART'S BLOOD comes roaring" or "in the HOT BLOOD comes roaring"? Sorry for this strange request, but I'm really in love with her and that song, my english is not perfect and by ear it's easy to misunderstand some particulars. Many thanks. I'd like her to know that even in Italy there's people like me who still love her amazing work and who remember her as one of the biggest despite all these years have passed.

xmt

Hello Craig, I'm an italian fan of Judy and I have a (stupid) question for her. Can you ask her for the truth about two words from a line in her incredible song "Rapture"?
I recently bought "Farewell Aldebaran" CD and I finally enjoy some lyrics, but because of a sure little error, I would love to know from her what actually she sung at this point: "lovers who lie beneath the night sky, neither speak nor HEAR" or "PEER"? And at the end of the song: "her voice in the HEART'S BLOOD comes roaring" or "in the HOT BLOOD comes roaring"? Sorry for this strange request, but I'm really in love with her and that song, my english is not perfect and by ear it's easy to misunderstand some particulars. Many thanks. I'd like her to know that even in Italy there's people like me who still love her amazing work and who remember her as one of the biggest despite all these years have passed.

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