"I donít think you should categorize yourself as an artist. You should allow yourself to grow. Growth is the nature of the creative process. You have to accept it, respect it, and move on."
— From an interview with Bruce Pollock.
Laura Nyro was an American song composer. She wrote albums acclaimed by the critics whose songs were later covered by singers and bands like Barbra Streisand
and the Fifth Dimension (the latter had a career almost propelled by her songs, reaching more success than Nyro ever did herself).
One of her first songs, "And When I Die", was sold to Peter, Paul & Mary, since she was under the management of Artie Mogull (she also recorded her debut More Than A New Discovery
, which was practically ignored). Later she got rid of him when she sued him due to her being taken and protected by David Geffen. She performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, but the performance was strangely mixed in terms of reception; Nyro herself believed that she had been massively booed, but filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, who documented the festival, found no such negative reaction in his footage of her performance.
She signed a contract with Columbia Records
, receiving greater artistic control. She then released, in 1968, what is generally considered to be her greatest album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession
, centered around the themes of love, passion, romance, drugs and death. Also, an unusual thing happened to the lyrics sheet (itself still quite rare in 1968): copies of it were perfumed, and fans reported that it still has a pleasant aroma nowadays.
The following year, she released the album New York Tendaberry
. It achieved greater success commercially (but not to the point of being lucrative) and critically. It is also a bit Darker and Edgier
compared to the predecessor, but also more sensual.
Her fourth album, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat
, was issued in 1970, concluding the "unofficial" trilogy that had started with "Eli". She retired from music business a year later (after releasing her most famous album, ironically a Cover Album
titled Gonna Take a Miracle
), while having a short-lived relationship with Jackson Browne
and, later, marrying to a Vietnam War veteran and carpenter, David Bianchini.
Five years later, she returned with a new album, Smile
, after ending her marriage and her mother dying from ovarian cancer at the age of 49. She then embarked on a tour and, two years later, released another album Nested
. The latter was recorded while she was pregnant with her only child. In the early 1980s, she started a relationship with Maria Desiderio, a painter, which lasted for the rest of her life.
She returned in 1984 with Mother's Spiritual
, and four years later, she embarked on a tour dedicated to the animal rights movement. Her final album of original material was Walk the Dog and Light the Light
, released in 1993. She received new offers for film and soundtrack songs, but she refused all of them , with the exception of a song to an Academy Award-winning documentary called "Broken Rainbow" (which got the same title), about the unjust relocation of Navajo people.
She died on April 8, 1997, at 49, at the same age and with the same disease (ovarian cancer) that had claimed her mother
Her legacy and influence is acknowledged by artists such as Todd Rundgren
(who wrote a song about her, "Baby, Let's Swing", and assisted in the recording of Mother's Spiritual
, being also great friends with each other), Joni Mitchell
, Rickie Lee Jones, Elton John
, and Steely Dan
, among others. Vocalists Judy Kuhn and Audra Mc Donald
and jazz pianist-arranger Billy Childs have recorded respective tributes covering Nyro's music, and at least one music theory scholar has conducted extensive analysis proving Nyro to be the link from the Great American Songbook compositional style to the 1960's.
Tropes in her work and life: