Phoebe Snow

Phoebe Snow

Born: 17-Jul1952

Birthplace: New York City
Religion: Buddhist [1]
Occupation: Jazz Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Jazz vocalist

Chose her stage name after a freight train that ran through her hometown of Teaneck, the Phoebe Snow. Apart from her first album, her recordings do not do justice to her actual talents.

[1] “Phoebe Snow Talks About”, Jet magazine, 9 June 1986, page 26: “For those who have wondered for years, ‘Is she or isn’t she? [black]’, Ms. Snow is Jewish. She attributes the mystery of her race to her curly ‘natural’, the fact she photographs dark on album covers and that before she began headlining, she was the opening act for many Black entertainers.” Since that interview, Ms. Snow has adopted Buddhism. See interview by Ronald Sklar, “Make Things All Right”,, 12 September 2007: “If you had told me at any time before the year 2002 that I would be chanting for hours at a time at a Buddhist temple, and that I would travel fourteen hours to Japan and chant day and night, I would have laughed out loud in your face.”

Father: Merrill Laub (exterminator)
Mother: Lili (dance teacher, d., bone cancer)
Husband: Phil Kearns
Daughter: Valerie Rose Laub (b. 1975, d. 18-Mar-2007)

High School: Teaneck High School, Teaneck, NJ
Wedding: Howard Stern and Beth Ostrosky (2008)
Jewish Ancestry

Official Website:

Appears in articles:
Esquire, 1982, DETAILS: The Blues of Phoebe Snow, BYLINE: Don Shewey

Phoebe Snow (born July 17, 1952) is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, best known for her 1975 hit “Poetry Man“.

Snow is described by The New York Times as a “contralto grounded in a bluesy growl and capable of sweeping over four octaves.”[1]

Born Phoebe Ann Laub in New York City, Snow was raised in a household where Delta blues, Broadway show tunes, Dixieland jazz, classical music and folk music recordings were played around the clock. Her father, Merrill Laub, was an exterminator by trade and her mother, Lili, was a dance teacher who died of bone cancer.[2] She grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey and graduated from Teaneck High School.[3] As a teenager, she carried her prized Martin 00018 acoustic guitar from club to club around Greenwich Village, playing and singing on amateur nights. Her stage name is the same as a fictional advertising character created in the early 1900s for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, a young woman named Phoebe Snow, who appeared on boxcars traveling near her hometown.[4]

Phoebe singing, “Poetry Man” -Every time I hear this song I am instantly transported in time back to 1975. Love it!!

She was briefly married to Phil Kearns, and, in December 1975, gave birth to a severely brain-injured daughter, Valerie.[5] Snow resolved not to institutionalize her but instead care for her at home, which she did until Valerie died on March 18, 2007 at the age of 31. Snow’s efforts to care for Valerie greatly and negatively affected her professional career, nearly ending it; it also adversely affected her personal life.[6]

Snow continues to take voice lessons, and she studies opera informally. She resides in Fort Lee, New Jersey.[6]

Phoebe Snow suffered a brain hemorrhage on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 and has undergone life-saving emergency surgery. She is hospitalized in an undisclosed medical center. (January 22, 2010)

It was at the Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell, a promotions executive for Shelter Records, was so taken by the singer that he signed her to the label and produced her first recording. She released an eponymous album, Phoebe Snow, in 1974. Featuring guest performances by The Persuasions, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson, David Bromberg and Dave Mason, Snow’s album became one of the most acclaimed debut recordings of the era.[citation needed] It spawned the Billboard Hot 100 #5 hit single, “Poetry Man,” reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, won Snow a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and established her as a formidable singer/songwriter. The cover of Rolling Stone magazine followed, while she performed as the opening act for tours by Jackson Browne and Paul Simon (with whom she recorded the hit single “Gone at Last” in 1975). 1975 also brought the first of several appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on which Snow performed both solo and in duets with Paul Simon and Linda Ronstadt. During the 1975 appearance, she was seven months pregnant with her daughter.

Another favorite of mine -Phoebe Snow singing, “Harpo’s Blues”

Legal battles took place between Snow and Shelter Records, and Snow ended up signed to Columbia Records. Her second album, Second Childhood, appeared in 1976, produced by Phil Ramone. It was jazzier and more introspective, and suffered disappointing sales.[citation needed] Snow moved to a harder sound for It Looks Like Snow, released later in 1976 with David Rubinson producing. 1977 saw Never Letting Go, again with Ramone, while 1978’s Against the Grain was helmed by Barry Beckett. After that Snow parted ways with Columbia; she would later say that the stress of her parental obligations degraded her ability to make music effectively.

In 1981, Snow, now signed with Mirage Records, released Rock Away, recorded with members of Billy Joel‘s band; it spun off the Top 50 hit “Games”. The 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide summed up Snow’s career so far by saying: “One of the most gifted voices of her generation, Phoebe Snow can do just about anything stylistically as well as technically … The question that’s still unanswered is how best to channel such talent.” However, Snow would now spend long periods away from recording, often singing commercial jingles for AT&T and others in order to support herself and her daughter.[7] During the 1980s she also battled her own life-threatening illness.[8] Snow returned to recording with Something Real in 1989 and gathered a few more hits on the Adult Contemporary charts. Also, Snow composed the Detroit’s WDIV-TV Go 4 It! campaign in 1980. She sang Ancient Places, Sacred Lands on Reading Rainbow‘s tenth episode The Gift of the Sacred Dog which was based on the book by Paul Goble and narrated by actor Michael Ansara. It was shot at Crow Agency, Montana in 1983.

Phoebe singing, “Just To Be With You”

In 1990, she contributed a cover version of the Delaney & Bonnie song “Get ourselves together” to the Elektra compilation Rubáiyát which included Earth Wind & Fire guitarist Dick Smith. In 1992, she toured with Donald Fagen‘s New York Rock and Soul Revue and was featured on the group’s album recorded live at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Even when she wasn’t recording her own works, Phoebe continued to tour extensively as a solo artist throughout North America, Great Britain, Germany, and the Far East.

Throughout the ’90s she made numerous appearances on the Howard Stern radio show. She sang live for specials and birthday shows.

In 1997, she sang the Roseanne theme song a cappella during the closing moments of the final episode.

Snow has performed with a numerous artists including Lou Rawls, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Dave Grusin, Avenue Blue with Jeff Golub, Garland Jeffreys, Jewel, Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Queen, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Jackson Browne, Dave Mason, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, Cyndi Lauper, Roger Daltrey, Chaka Khan, CeCe Peniston, Take 6, Michael Bolton, Thelma Houston, Mavis Staples, Laurie Anderson, Tracy Nelson, and The Sisters of Glory (with whom she performed at the second Woodstock festival), among others. She also sings the title track on the 1997 Laura Nyro tribute album, Time and Love, and recently Snow joined the pop group, Zap Mama, who recorded its own version of “Poetry Man,” in an impromptu duet on the PBS series, “Sessions At West 54th.” Hawaiian girl group Na Leo also had a hit on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1999 with their cover version of “Poetry Man.”

In May 1998, Snow received the Cultural Achievement Award by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. She is also the recipient of a Don Kirschner Rock Award, several Playboy Music Poll Awards, New York Music Awards and the Clio Award.

She performed for President Clinton, the First Lady, and his cabinet at Camp David in 1999.

In 2003, Snow released her album Natural Wonder on Eagle Records, containing ten original tracks, her first original material in fourteen years.

Snow performed at Howard Stern‘s wedding in 2008, and made a special appearance in the film Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom as herself. Some of her music was also featured on the soundtrack of the film. Her Live album (2008) featured many of her hits as well as a cover of the Janis Joplin classic, “Piece of My Heart.”

Snow will release a new CD in 2010 and begin touring with her band in March.

Source: Wikipedia, YouTube,

A phenomenon unto herself “technically inimitable”, is how respected NY TIMES critic Stephen Holden describes legendary singer Phoebe Snow.Composer of more than 100 songs, Snow’s “Poetry Man” was her first huge hit, which led to her three appearances on “Saturday Night Live”, a Best New Artist Grammy nomination, and the cover of Rolling Stone. She was nominated for another Grammy in 1975, and has released 16 albums. Her most recent album was “Phoebe Snow LIVE at Woodstock”.

Snow does approximately 50 concerts a year in the U.S., has performed in Europe and the Far East, and earns multiple standing ovations everywhere. The coveted Snow is also sought-after as a surprise guest-duet singer at her friends’ rock, R&B and pop concerts. Some of these appearances have included Cindy Lauper, Roger Daltry, Brian McKnight, Queen Latifah, Paul Simon, Chaka Khan, Donald Fagen and Steely Dan, Levon Helm, Michael McDonald, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, Michael Bolton, and Bonnie Raitt.

She was born in New Jersey, and grew up in an artistic household. Her mother was a Martha Graham dancer and her grandfather was a comedian. Their love of music contributed to Snow’s interest and ability to sing all types, using her multi-octave range, including opera. She was discovered by a record company executive as a teenager singing on a talent night in a Greenwich Village club in New York.

Her awards include the Cultural Achievement Award for New York, presented by Mayor Giuliani, a Don Kirschner Rock Award, several Playboy Music Polls, the New York Music Award, and the Clio Award for her singing TV commercials for Stouffers, and General Foods.

Phoebe Snow had the privilege of caring for her beloved daughter, Valerie Rose, who sustained multiple injuries to her brain at birth, and subsequently needed two neurosurgical procedures and other small surgical procedures within the first year of her life. She was very disabled throughout her life, but her original prognosis had been that she would only survive until perhaps her first birthday. She proceeded to defy medical odds, and went on to live just past her 31st birthday. She lived at home with Phoebe for these 31 years, during which time she was Phoebe’s best friend, soul mate, and the love of her life.


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