Laura Nyro was a singer, songwriter and musician who was prominent on the pop music scene in the late 60's and early 70's. Most notably, she wrote a number of songs that became big hits for other artists.
She was born as Laura Nigro in the New York City borough of the Bronx in 1947. Her father, a trumpet player, worked as a piano tuner. She wrote songs as a child and attended the High School of Music and Art, at roughly the same time as her friend, recording artist Janis Ian. Experimenting with various stage names, she finally settled on Laura Nyro (pronounced as NEAR-oh). First managed by record producer Artie Mogull, she later had her contract voided and switched to new manager David Geffen. She had secured a contract with the Verve label (later known as Verve Forecast Records). Her debut albumMore Than A New Discovery in 1966 was followed by her appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival the following year, where her act reportedly was not well received by fans of Janis Joplin.
Her More Than A New Discovery album was comprised entirely of songs that Laura had written. She handled vocals as well as playing keyboards and guitar. Within a few years, some of her songs on this album became pop top forty songs when recorded by other artists (and in 1999 it was acknowledged with an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame). Among them:
Geffen helped Laura to sign with Columbia and she began work on her next album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Once again all the songs were written by Laura, and this time she contributed piano, vocal, and harmonies. And as before, some of the tracks from this album were turned into hits by other artists:
Her next album, New York Tendaberry, was issued in 1969 and turned out to be her largest selling, at #32 on the album charts. Once again Laura wrote all of the songs on it. The most successful single from this one was Time And Love, which did not make the top forty in a version by Streisand. Laura had only one hit as a recording artist that reached the top 100 -- ironically, one that she had not written herself -- a cover of the Drifters' 1963 hit Up On The Roof, in 1970. Her albums never sold very well, but she had what has been described as a cult following, for many years. She came out with four more albums in the 70's and three more after that, in addition to numerous albums that were recorded live and a number of compilations.
Nyro took some time off, moving to a small fishing village in Massachusetts. She came back to do some more albums, then retreated once again. Along the way she had a relationship with singer Jackson Browne, married and divorced, and gave birth to a son. In 1975 Laura's mother died from ovarian cancer at age 49. She continued recording, left the music business and came back once again. In the early 80's she began living with painter Maria Desiderio.
In 1996 Laura was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died the following year in Danbury, Connecticut, from the same disease and at the same age, 49, as her mother had two decades previously. A number of artists have cited Laura Nyro as an influence in the intervening years, including Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Rickie Lee Jones, Todd Rundgren, Melissa Manchester and Steely Dan. Her biography Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro by Michele Kort, was published in 2002. In 2012 Laura took her place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Laura Nyro was immensely talented and one of the best songwriters of the late 60's/early 70's. The songs with which most music fans associate her include And When I Die, Wedding Bell Blues, Stoney End, Sweet Blindness, Stoned Soul Picnic, and Eli's Coming.
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