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Laura Nyro

Laura was born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, New York, on 18 October 1947, and was only 19 when she recorded her first album, More Than A New Discovery in 1966 for the Verve label.

It included the original version of Wedding Bell Blues, a song that was successfully covered by The Fifth Dimension giving them an American #1.

Considering her “idiosyncratic” performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (where she was booed off stage after a soul-style revue) and her underachievement in the charts, singer/songwriter Laura Nyro is all too frequently passed over as an original artist of worth.

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Her 1968 LP, Eli and The Thirteenth Confession, was recorded under the aegis of David Geffen and contained piano-based songs which were at once introspective, sensual and poetic, embracing an eclectic combination of blue-eyed soul, jazz (her father had been a jazz trumpeter), folk music and gospel.

Her openness to experimentation saw Nyro incorporate unexpected tempo shifts, something that irked contemporary critics.

But whether it is the bohemian life depicted in her swinging Sweet Blindness, the wandering and sunny soul-wrapped melody of Stoned Soul Picnic, or the sad and lingering blues of Woman’s Blues, Nyro’s intense, unconventional songwriting – and striking delivery, ranging from whispering to strident within a phrase – touches both the head and the heart.

lauranyro4The album barely hit the Top 200, but though Nyro herself remained a stranger to chart success, well-known acts such as The Fifth Dimension and Three Dog Night made the big time with cover versions of tracks on that album.

In 1971, Laura joined up with the R&B vocal group Labelle, featuring Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, for Gonna Take A Miracle, a compelling collection of doo-wop and Motown classics.

Press-shy and leery of show business, Nyro retired to the New England countryside in the early 70s, but following her divorce in 1976, she returned to recording with the subdued, jazz-tinged Smile.

After the birth of her son, Gil Bianchini, in 1978, themes of motherhood, feminism, ecology and animal rights came to the forefront of her music, dominating Nested (1978), Mother’s Spiritual (1984) and Walk the Dog and Light the Light (1993).

Subsequent artists including Rickie Lee Jones, Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos all bear the mark of her influence.

Laura Nyro died at her home in Danbury, Connecticut, on 8 April 1997. An intensely private woman, Nyro had chosen not to make public her two-year battle with ovarian cancer, which ended her life at the age of 49.

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