Laura Nyro Is Worth Remembering
"I'm writing about Laura Nyro. What should I say?"
"Who?" This was not the answer I wanted or expected from my mother. After all, I had spent my single-digit years rifling through my parents' old vinyl and found Nyro's pen to be behind many a childhood favorite.
Laura Nyro was born into a forward-thinking and musically gifted Bronx family. She went from singing on street corners to selling out Carnegie Hall on a weekend that she just happened to have three of her compositions recorded by other artists in the Billboard Top 10. To top it off, she turned down Blood, Sweat & Tears when they thought she had what it took to step into Al Kooper's shoes.
Wildly imaginative and conscious of her connection with the world around her, Nyro's arrangements, lyrics and phrasing were altogether unheard of and unique, yet universal and eternal. Mixing her much loved Doo Wop and jazz with the emerging pop sensibilities of the sixties, she drew listeners in with the sheer joy of sound while whispering ethereal truths into their subconscious.
So, for my mom to not immediately recognize her name, I knew that there was a criminal level of underappreciation afoot. Sure, Nyro was finally inducted, posthumously, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year; but even then her endof-life work as an animal-rights advocate was ignored in her tribute. I guess she was always one step ahead of what the greater whole of society was comfortable with confronting.
To celebrate the life, talent, and beauty of the one-of-a-kind Laura Nyro on the anniversary of her death from ovarian cancer in 1997; I'm offering this list of pop-culture moments to help clarify the impact that her words and voice have had on arts of all kinds, even if we weren't so sure of the source.
5. "Desiree'/It's Gonna Take A Miracle," A Home at the End of the World
Michael Cunningham's critically acclaimed novel is the story of fractured souls finding comfort in open hearts. When recently orphaned Bobby Marrow is taken in by the straight-laced Glover family, he does not shy away from showing who he really is.
His willingness to live is contagious. When mother Alice, played in the adaptation by Sissy Spacek, is entranced by the lilting tones of "Desiree'" she eventually let's her guard down, sharing both a joint and an unforgettable moment with her son and his friend.
4. "Eli's Coming," Sports Night
Before Aaron Sorkin got a handle on the ins and outs of the small screen, he learned the ropes on the critically acclaimed yet seldom watched Sports Night. This behind-the-scenes look at sports journalism boasted a fantastic up-and-coming cast and a comedic ringer in Robert Guillaume.
When Guillaume suffered a real-life stroke, Sorkin was confronted with the uncertainty of his recovery. In this episode, talking head Dan Rydell (Josh Charles) feels an ominous portent in the air, "Eli's Coming," a reference to Nyro's song that Three Dog Night made into a hit. Despite all his efforts to change his fortunes, those opening notes creep up as he receives Earth-shattering news. Please note: the clip is from an "equally poignant" and "not at all ridiculous" scene from the Lily Tomlin-hosted "Music Scene".