Laura Nyro Biography

Laura Nigro, 18 October 1947, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA, d. 8 April 1997, Danbury, Connecticut, USA. The daughter of an accomplished jazz trumpeter, Nyro was introduced to music at an early age, reputedly completing her first composition when she was only eight years old. Her main influences ranged from Bob Dylan to John Coltrane, but the artist’s 1966 debut More Than A New Discovery revealed a talent akin to Brill Building songwriters Carole King and Ellie Greenwich. Nyro’s empathy for soul and R&B enhanced her individuality, although she later disowned the set, claiming its stilted arrangements were completed against her wishes. The album nonetheless contained several songs that were adapted by other artists, notably ‘Stoney End’ (Barbra Streisand), ‘And When I Die’ (Blood, Sweat And Tears) and ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ (the 5th Dimension). Nyro was now managed by David Geffen, and he did much to further her own career, although some would say it was purely to further his own. He found through Clive Davis and Columbia Records, a sympathetic home for Nyro’s work. Geffen was also highly active in getting other artists to record Nyro’s songs, although he also had a financial interest in the music publishing rights.

The artist’s 1968 release Eli And The Thirteenth Confession complied more closely to Nyro’s wishes; while containing the highly popular ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’, also a hit for the 5th Dimension, it revealed the growing sense of introspection that flourished on the following year’s New York Tendaberry. Here the singer’s dramatic intonation, capable of sweeping from a whisper to anguished vibrato within a phrase, emphasized a bare emotional nerve exposed on ‘You Don’t Love Me When I Cry’ and ‘Sweet Lovin’ Baby’. Her frequent jumps in tempo irked certain critics, but the majority applauded its audacious ambition and peerless fusion of gospel and white soul. The extraordinary Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat, which included the startling ‘Christmas In My Soul’, offered a similar passion while 1971’s Gonna Take A Miracle, a collaboration with producers Gamble And Huff, acknowledged the music that provided much of the artist’s inspiration. Backed by the Sigma Sound Studio house band and singing trio LaBelle, Nyro completed enthralling versions of uptown R&B and Motown Records favourites.

Nyro then retired from music altogether, but re-emerged in 1975 upon the disintegration of her marriage. Smile showed the singer’s talent had remained intact and included the powerful ‘I Am The Blues’, while an attendant promotional tour spawned Season Of Lights. 1978’s Nested was, however, less impressive and a further domestically inspired hiatus followed. The 1984 recording Mother’s Spiritual reflected Nyro’s reactions to both parenthood and ageing; her comeback was confirmed in 1988 when she embarked on her first concert tour in over a decade. Her first studio album in nine years, Walk The Dog & Light The Light, was her only new release of the 90s, and was warmly received as Nyro’s most accessible collection of songs since the early 70s.

The 1997 compilation Stoned Soul Picnic was a fitting 34-song retrospective, but only weeks after its release Nyro succumbed to the ovarian cancer she had been diagnosed with only two years earlier. A number of posthumous releases subsequently appeared, most notably the UK-only album Angel in The Dark, which contains the artist’s final studio recordings. Laura Nyro will be remembered as a mature songwriter and a singularly impressive performer, her intonation proving influential on several other female singers, notably Rickie Lee Jones.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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