Back in the ’70s, I was, most fortunately, introduced to the music of singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Nyro wrote songs that were big hits for Blood, Sweat and Tears, the Fifth Dimension, Three Dog Night, Barbara Streisand, and many others. Despite her posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 2012) she never really got the acclaim or recognition- in her own lifetime- she so richly deserved. So, I’d like to offer a short tribute:
Laura Nyro’s music is beautiful, sensuous, and soulful. Her songs have the funky strut of summertime city streets; her music can pull you into realms of ecstasy, or into small places of heartbreak and loneliness. What now seems so apparent about Laura Nyro is that she was innovative and courageous. She took chances, and in a sense seemed unfettered by prosaic, earthly limitations. On balance, she also had the collaboration of arranger Charlie Calello (on her album “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession”) and the creativity and drive of New York’s finest session musicians!
A lot could be said about the amalgam of musical styles in Laura Nyro’s music: Street Corner Doo-Wop, Soul, Rock & Roll, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Broadway… Suffice it to say, Laura Nyro synthesized, absorbed, digested all these forms, and then utilized them in a holistic manner for her own purposes. Many of her melodies have the divine spark of true inspiration. Some of her vocal arrangements are nearly as intricate as any piece of Baroque chamber music. That she had a genius for melody almost goes without saying, but it needs to be said that she was some kind of pop music genius, if only for the simple reason that a lot of people have never even heard of Laura Nyro!
Her lyrics have the feel and freedom and juice of true poetry (“Red yellow honey sassafras and moonshine, red yellow honey sassafras and moonshine, stoned soul”-”Stoned Soul Picnic”). Her words can carry you along with a kind of rhythmic hypnosis (“Walk, walk, but you’ll never get away, no you’ll never get away from the burn and the heartache, I walked to Apollo and the Bay and everywhere I go, go”- “Eli’s Comin’”) or arrest you with finely woven exquisite perfection (“Emily, you’re the natural snow, the natural snow, the unstudied sea, you’re a cameo, and I swear, I swear you were born a weaver’s lover, born for the loom’s desire…”- “Emmie”). A lot of her lines are uncommonly clever (“He’s the one in the Trojan Horse, making out like he’s Santa Claus!”- “Flim Flam Man”). And, she used American idioms to great comic advantage (“Dig them potatoes like you never dug your girl before…Hey, Hey, Hey, it’s a real good day to go get lucky!”- “Luckie”). Finally, Nyro wrote lines that reach you because of their honesty and simplicity “…and when I saw you crying, I cried too…”- “I Never Meant to Hurt You”)
You will find in Laura Nyro’s music some of the heights and depths of human emotion, and some really happening, feel-good grooves! Laura Nyro died of cancer in 1997. She was 49 years old.
Here are two CD’s of Nyro’s music, both available from your Sarasota County Public Libraries, “The Essential Laura Nyro” and “Time and Love: The Essential Masters”
You can watch one of her live performances, on “The Complete Monterey Pop Festival” (DVD), also available from Sarasota County Public Libraries!
You can request the above items from the Library Catalog sarac.scgov.net
For more information, her official website is at http://www.lauranyro.com
By Carey Chaney, Library Assistant
Betty J. Johnson North Sarasota Public Library