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Laura Nyro Dead at 49

Songwriter dies of ovarian cancer in Connecticut

Laura Nyro, one of the most important female singer/songwriters of
the ’60s and ’70s, died Tuesday at her Danbury, Conn., home at the
age of 49 due to complications from ovarian cancer. Best known for
such classics as “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “And
When I Die,” “Stoney End” and “Eli’s Comin,'”
Nyro
influenced peers and generations to come with her poetic
lyrics, emotional vocal style and free-form compositions that drew
on gospel and soul. She was also one of the first major acts
managed by David
Geffen
near the beginning of his career.

Born in the Bronx, N.Y., Nyro released her debut
album, “More Than a New Discovery,” in 1966, at 19. Despite — or
perhaps because of — lyrics such as “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,” the album went nowhere
commercially. But several covers of her songs by other artists were
major hits, including the Fifth Dimension’s versions of “Wedding
Bell Blues” and “Blowin’ Away,” Barbra Streisand’s “Stoney End” and
Blood, Sweat and Tears’ “And When I Die.”

Her second and third albums brought Nyro critical
praise for her powerful lyrics and effective interpretation of
black, urban musical styles in an era of folkies. On these
releases, she perfected her sound, which was characterized by
distinctive, keening vocals, surprising rhythmic changes and
unusual phrasing.

Indeed, “unusual” was a word often used to praise
Nyro’s talent and explain her personal style. “Dressed in black …
Nyro wore purple lipstick and used Christmas-tree ornaments as
earrings,” says Artie Mogull, her first manager, in the book “The
Mansion on the Hill.”

A lack of commercial success prompted Nyro to retire
for the first time in 1971, at the age of 24, after the release of
two more albums, including “Gonna Take a Miracle,” recorded with
Labelle. She recorded and toured only sporadically after that,
releasing three more albums before the end of the ’70s, as well as
“Mother’s Spiritual” in 1984 and “Live at the Bottom Line” in
1988.

Nyro won over critics again with her last studio album
“Walk the Dog and Light the Light,” released in 1993. She has been
cited as a major influence on Joni
Mitchell, Ricki Lee Jones and succeeding generations of female
singer/songwriters. Indeed, a Nyro tribute album, “Time and Love:
The Music of Laura Nyro,” is scheduled for release May 13 on
Profile Records. It features Jones, Suzanne Vega, Rosanne Cash,
Phoebe Snow, Holly Cole, Jill Sobule, Jane Siberry, Lucinda
Williams, Lisa Germano, the Roches and others.

In This Article: Laura Nyro

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