Monday, October 18, 2010

Music Monday ~ Laura Nyro

"I'm a Libra, and I seem to like balance," Laura Nyro declared solemnly near the end of her first set at the Bottom Line....."Since I started the show with some sweet old rock-and-roll, I'll finish with some more."

That's a good quote to begin this post, coming from a lady born today, 18 October, in 1947. Sad to say, she died aged 49, in 1997, struck down by overian cancer.

Wikipedia tells us that Laura was best known, and enjoyed her greatest commercial success, as a composer and lyricist rather than as a performer. Between 1968 and 1970 a number of other singers had significant hits with her songs: The 5th Dimension with Blowing Away, Wedding Bell Blues, Stoned Soul Picnic, Sweet Blindness, Save The Country and Black Patch; Blood, Sweat & Tears and Peter, Paul & Mary with And When I Die; Three Dog Night with Eli's Coming; 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 and Gerry Goffin's Up on the Roof.

Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro (pronounced Nero) pioneered a free-form style of songwriting, spawned from '60s folk music - emphasis on Bob Dylan. Laura was a trained pianist with the musical skills and insights to blend folk, soul, blues, gospel and Broadway tradition into intense, introspective songs which still defy categorisation. Singing her own compositions, and those of other songwriters, she adopted a signature "note-bending wail" and was one of the first females to introduce a style which came to be known as "blue-eyed soul" - an attempt by white vocalists to emulate their black role models.

Her concerts were "fervent affairs in which the dark-haired, dark-eyed singer, exotically gowned and surrounded by roses, performed with a transported intensity."

From an obituary written by Sean Elder at Salon in April 1997
Nyro was born of Jewish and Italian parents in the Bronx in 1947. Her father was a jazz trumpeter and even outside her home, music was a constant visceral presence, like air or electricity. "I would go out singing, as a teenager, to a party or out on the street, because there were harmony groups there, and that was one of the joys of my youth," she wrote in the liner notes to "Stoned Soul Picnic." The doo-wop and girl-group rock that filled the streets of New York then informed her songs (an influence paid homage to in the '71 release "Gonna Take a Miracle"), but so did the jazz she grew up with, the folk she heard in the coffee shops of Greenwich Village, gospel, show tunes, soul music -- Nyro's music was like the polyglot city from which it sprang, rich and surprising with an odd hint of danger. .....

"Stoney End," "And When I Die," "Eli's Coming" -- they were songs anyone listening to the radio in the '60s knew (they were covered by Barbra Streisand; Blood, Sweat and Tears; and Three Dog Night, respectively), but Nyro's originals remain a revelation. She was 19 years old when she recorded those songs and she sang them with the emotion and conviction of a woman twice her age......Nyro was nothing if not sensitive: She retired twice in her career, the first time at the age of 24. Her private life was just that, though her relationship with manager David Geffen was more than your average business deal. She is survived by a grown son and a female companion and countless invisible fans who will miss the warmth of her spirit.


Data from Astrodatabank: Born at 12:30 AM in New York City on 18 October 1947.

The "introspective intensity" mentioned above is easily recognised in her natal chart: a cluster in intense Scorpio: Venus, Chiron, Mercury, South node of the Moon and Jupiter form a chain through the sign, and might even be considered as overshadowing her sweeter natal Libra Sun and Neptune. Moon at 11 degrees of ebullient Sagittarius in exact helpful sextile to creative Neptune, but in harmonious trine to another cluster of severe planets in Leo (Mars, Pluto, Saturn) sets up something of an anomaly, sharpening the traditional sweetness of Libra and blunting the usual cheeriness of Leo. Laura Nyro was something of an enigma. A happy image of sweetness underpinned by an intense darker and sadder layer beneath.

Something else - North node of the Moon (a sensivie point in the chart) at 24.47 Taurus is very close to Fixed Star Algol, known to ancient astrologers as the most unfortunate of Fixed Stars. In some cases Algol doesn't indicate dire misfortune, or any misfortune at all - but simply a very intense nature; in other cases it can foreshadow unfortunate circumstances. In Laura's case, her untimely death immediately comes to mind.

Two versions of her song Stoney End follow:
First Laura Nyro singing on the 'B' side of her debut single Wedding Bell Blues with "adjusted" lyrics required by the recording company who felt her original opening lines might be offensive to some people. This version was never re-released on albums. The second video features Laura with Barbra Streisand (who had a big hit with the song) and Linda Ronstadt, and the original lyrics.

Laura's original opening lyrics:
"I was born from love/And my poor mother worked the mines/I was raised on the Good Book Jesus/'Til I read between the lines...."

Substitute lyrics:
I was born from love/ and I was raised on golden rules/ till the love of a winsome Johnny/ taught me love was made for fools.

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