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Women Music March #19 — Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro, born Laura Nigro, October 18, 1947 – April 8, 1997) was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist. She achieved critical acclaim with her own recordings, particularly the albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969), and had commercial success with artists such as Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension recording her songs. Her style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, rhythm and blues, show tunes, rock, and soul. She was praised for her strong emotive vocal style and 3-octave mezzo-soprano vocal range.

Between 1968 and 1970, a number of artists had hits with her songs: The 5th Dimension with “Blowing Away”, “Wedding Bell Blues”, “Stoned Soul Picnic”, “Sweet Blindness”, and “Save the Country”; Blood, Sweat & Tears and Peter, Paul and Mary, with “And When I Die”; Three Dog Night and Maynard Ferguson, with “Eli’s Comin'”; and Barbra Streisand with “Stoney End”, “Time and Love”, and “Hands off the Man (Flim Flam Man)”. Nyro’s best-selling single was her recording of Carole King’s and Gerry Goffin’s “Up on the Roof“.

In 2010, Laura Nyro posthumously was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2012, Nyro posthumously was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Nyro was born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, the daughter of Gilda (née Mirsky) Nigro, a bookkeeper, and Louis Nigro, a piano tuner and jazz trumpeter. Laura had a younger brother, Jan Nigro, who has become a well-known children’s musician. Laura was of Russian Jewish and Polish Jewish descent, with Italian ancestry from her paternal grandfather.

I’ve created my own little world, a world of music, since I was five years old,” Nyro told Billboard magazine in 1970, adding that music provided, for her, a means of coping with a difficult childhood: “I was never a bright and happy child.” As a child, Nyro taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother’s records by Leontyne Price, Nina Simone, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, and classical composers such as Debussy and Ravel. She composed her first songs at age eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskills, where her father played trumpet at resorts. She credited the Sunday school at the New York Society for Ethical Culture with providing the basis of her education; she also attended Manhattan’s High School of Music & Art.

In late 1996, Nyro, like her mother, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After the diagnosis, Columbia Records, with Nyro’s involvement and approval, prepared a two-CD retrospective of material from her years at the label. She lived to see the release of Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro (1997), and was reportedly pleased with the outcome.

Laura died of ovarian cancer in Danbury, Connecticut, on April 8, 1997, at 49, the same age at which her mother died. Her ashes were scattered beneath a maple tree on the grounds of her house in Danbury.

More Than a New Discovery is Laura’s debut album, recorded during 1966 and released early in following year on the Verve Folkways imprint of the Verve Records label. The name of the label was later changed to Verve Forecast and the album was re-issued on that label as The First Songs in 1969. This re-issue has a different track order and revised cover design. It peaked at #97 on the Billboard 200, then known as the Pop Albums chart. Starting with this release the song “Hands Off the Man” was retitled “Flim Flam Man”. Columbia Records re-issued The First Songs with all-new cover art (featuring a rose illustration) in 1973. In 1999, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Stoney End” is a song written by Laura Nyro and first released in February 1967 on her debut album More Than a New Discovery. A gospel-inflected uptempo piece; according to childhood friend Alan Merrill, Nyro originally intended the song to be performed on a slower pace. The best known version of the song was a hit for Barbra Streisand in 1970.

 

 

I was born from love
And my poor mother worked the mines
I was raised on the Good Book Jesus
Till I read between the lines
Now I don’t believe
I want to see the morning
Going down the Stoney End
I never wanted to go
Down the Stoney End
Mama let me start all over
Cradle me, Mama, cradle me again
I can still remember him
With love light in his eyes
But the light flickered out and parted
As the sun began to rise
Now I don’t believe
I want to see the morning
Going down the Stoney End
I never wanted to go
Down the Stoney End
Mama let me start all over
Cradle me, mama, cradle me again
(Cradle me, mama, cradle me again
Mama, cradle me again…)
Never mind the forecast
‘Cause the sky has lost control
‘Cause the furry and the broken thunders
Come to match my raging soul
Now I don’t believe
I want to see the morning
Going down the Stoney End
I never wanted to go
Down the Stoney End
Mama let me start all over
Cradle me, mama, cradle me again
Going down the Stoney End…
Songwriters: Laura Nyro

11 thoughts on “Women Music March #19 — Laura Nyro

  1. She will always have a piece of my heart.
    Nina used to play the piano and we would sing her songs, especially “Billy’s Blues “. I wore that first album out, also love the one she did with Labelle.

    Liked by 1 person

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