Sunday, October 18, 2020

Laura Nyro: Stoney End

Laura Nyro, who was born on this day in 1947 and died in 1997, never seems to have enjoyed the fame she deserved. This Guardian article by Laura Barton helps explain why that is:

While Nyro was one of the most important songwriters of the 60s and 70s, one who has exerted a profound influence on artists from Elton John to Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell to Carole King and Tori Amos, she also sidestepped celebrity, turned down offers to increase both sales and fame, and for much of her career put the song before the songwriter - allowing others to record the definitive versions of her own compositions.

Stoney End is better known from the version by Barbra Streisand and Nyro also wrote Wedding Bell Blues, which was a hit for the The 5th Dimension.

But she was a remarkable talent, as Barton goes on to say:

If Nyro’s story feels in some way confounding, all that turn-tailing on talent and success, all those steps to the left when the going looked so good, it’s perhaps consoling to consider that the unexpected twists that ran through her life were in some way an echo of her songwriting – full of rhythmic convolutions, free-form compositions, vocal variations. As Elton John put it: "The soul, the passion, just the out-and-out audacity of the way her rhythmic and melody changes came was like nothing I’d heard before."

More than anything, Nyro’s lyrics always felt lived. "Everything seemed exotic and heightened in her songs," Bette Midler said in the speech she made to posthumously induct Nyro into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. "She could make a trip to the grocery store seem like a night at the opera."

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