Laura Nyro (October 18, 1947 – April 8, 1997) was an American composer, lyricist, singer, and pianist. Her style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes and rock.
She was best known, and enjoyed her greatest commercial success, as a composer and lyricist rather than as a performer. Between 1968 and 1970 a number of other singers had significant hits with her songs: The 5th Dimension with “Blowing Away”, “Wedding Bell Blues“, “Stoned Soul Picnic“, “Sweet Blindness”, “Save The Country” and “Black Patch”; Blood, Sweat & Tears and Peter, Paul & Mary with “And When I Die”; Three Dog Night with “Eli’s Coming”; and Barbra Streisand with “Stoney End”, “Time and Love”, and “Hands off the Man (Flim Flam Man)”. Nyro’s best-selling single was her recording of Carole King and Gerry Goffin‘s “Up on the Roof.”
Here’s the Fifth Dimension singing, Laura Nyro’s, “Save The Country”
Nyro was born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Gilda Mirsky Nigro, a bookkeeper, and Louis Nigro, a piano tuner and jazz trumpeter. Laura has a brother, Jan Nigro. As a child, she taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother’s records by Leontyne Price, Billie Holiday and classical composers such as Ravel and Debussy. She composed her first songs at the age of eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskill Mountains where her father played the trumpet at resorts. She credited the Sunday school at the New York Society for Ethical Culture with providing the basis of her education; she also attended Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art.
….And my favorite Laura Nyro tune, “Wedding Bell Blues” This clip was recorded in 1969 with the Fifth Dimension. I bet Laura loved hearing Marilyn McCoo sing her songs.
While in high school, she sang with a group of friends in subway stations and on street corners. She said :- “I would go out singing, as a teenager, to a party or out on the street, because there were harmony groups there, and that was one of the joys of my youth”. Among her favorite musicians were John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Pete Seeger, Curtis Mayfield, Van Morrison, and girl groups such as The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and the Shirelles. She also commented : “I was always interested in the social consciousness of certain songs. My mother and grandfather were progressive thinkers, so I felt at home in the peace movement and the women’s movement, and that has influenced my music”.
Here’s Laura singing her own song, “Stoned Soul Picnic”
Her father’s work brought him into contact with record company executive Artie Mogull (1927–2004), who auditioned Laura in 1966 and became her first manager. As a teenager she experimented with using different names, and Nyro (which she pronounced “NEER-oh”) was the one she was using at the time. She sold her song, “And When I Die”, to Peter, Paul and Mary for $5,000, and made her first extended professional appearance, at age 18, singing at the “hungry i” coffeehouse in San Francisco. Mogull negotiated her a recording contract, and she recorded her debut album, More Than a New Discovery, for the Verve Folkways label. The album provided material for other artists, notably the 5th Dimension.
Here’s Blood, Sweat and Tears performing “And When I Die.”
In 1967, Nyro made only her second major live appearance, at the Monterey Pop Festival. Although some accounts described her performance as a fiasco that culminated in her being booed off the stage, recordings later made public contradict this view.
Soon afterwards, David Geffen approached Mogull about taking over as her agent. Nyro successfully sued to void her management and recording contracts on the grounds that she had entered into them while still a minor. Geffen became her manager, and the two established a publishing company, Tuna Fish Music, under which the proceeds from her future compositions would be divided equally between them. Geffen also arranged Nyro’s new recording contract with Clive Davis at Columbia Records, and purchased the publishing rights to her early compositions. Around this time Nyro considered becoming lead singer for Blood, Sweat & Tears, after the departure of founder Al Kooper, but was dissuaded by Geffen. However, BS&T would go on to have a hit with a cover of her song “And When I Die.”
The new contract allowed Nyro more artistic freedom and control. In 1968 Columbia Records released her second album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. This received high critical praise for the depth and sophistication of the performance and arrangements, merging pop structure with inspired imagery, rich vocals and avant-garde jazz, and is widely considered to be one of her best works. It was followed in 1969 by New York Tendaberry, another highly acclaimed work which cemented Nyro’s artistic credibility. The record’s “Time and Love” and “Save the Country” emerged as two of her most well-regarded and popular songs.
Her fourth album, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat, was issued at the end of 1970. The set contained such well-known Nyro diamonds as “Upstairs By a Chinese Lamp” and “When I Was a Freeport”. It featured Muscle Shoals musicians including Duane Allman. The following year’s Gonna Take a Miracle was an album of her favourite “teenage heartbeat songs”, recorded with vocal group Labelle (Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash) and the production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. With the exception of her attribution of the song “Désiree” (originally “Deserie” by The Charts), this was Nyro’s sole album of wholly non-original material, featuring such songs as “Jimmy Mack“, “Nowhere to Run“, and “Spanish Harlem“.
By this time, Nyro was married, to carpenter David Bianchini in 1971. She was also reportedly uncomfortable with attempts to market her as a celebrity, and she announced her retirement from the music business at the age of 24.
In 1973, her Verve debut album was acquired and reissued by Columbia as The First Songs.
By 1976, her marriage had ended, and she returned with an album of new material, Smile. She then embarked on a four-month tour with a full band, which resulted in the 1977 live album Season of Lights. In the early 1980s, Laura began living with painter Maria Desiderio (1954–1999), a relationship which lasted 17 years, the rest of Laura’s life.
After the 1978 album Nested, recorded when she was pregnant with her only child, she again took a break from recording, this time until 1984’s Mother’s Spiritual. She began touring with a band in 1988, her first concert appearances in ten years. The tour was dedicated to the animal rights movement. The shows led to her 1989 release, Laura: Live at the Bottom Line, which included six new compositions.
Her final album of predominantly original material was Walk the Dog and Light the Light (1993), her last album for Columbia, which was co-produced by Gary Katz, best known for his work with Steely Dan. This sparked reappraisal of her place in popular music, and new commercial offers began to appear. She turned down some lucrative film-composing offers, although she contributed a rare protest song to the Academy Award winning documentary “Broken Rainbow”, about the unjust relocation of the Navajo people.
Both The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman staff heavily pursued Nyro for a TV appearance during this period, yet she turned them down as well, citing her discomfort with appearing on television (she made only a handful of early TV appearances and one fleeting moment on VH-1 performing the title song from “Broken Rainbow” on Earth Day in 1990). She never released an official video, although there was talk of filming some Bottom Line appearances in the 1990s. On the Fourth of July, 1991, she opened for Bob Dylan at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.
In 1996 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After the diagnosis, Columbia Records prepared a double-disc CD retrospective of material from her years at the label. The company involved Nyro herself, who selected the tracks and approved the final project. She lived to see the release of Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro (1997), and was reportedly pleased with the outcome.
Nyro died of ovarian cancer in Danbury, Connecticut on April 8, 1997, at the age of 49; the same disease had claimed the life of her mother at the same age.
Source: Wikipedia, YouTube, imdb.com
Quick Bio From nndm.com
AKA Laura Nigro
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: New York songwriter
Father: Louis Nigro (piano tuner)
Mother: Gilda Nigro (bookkeeper with the American Psychoanalytic Association)
Husband: David Bianchini (carpenter)
Son: Gil Bianchini (b. 1978)
Girlfriend: Maria Desiderio (painter, together for 17 years, d. 6-Nov-1999)
High School: High School of Music and Art, Harlem, NY