The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro
By Michele Kort
Thomas Dunne Books, Hardcover, 9780312209414, 352pp.
Publication Date: May 1, 2002
Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro is a biography of the pioneering singer-songwriter whose recordings and high-drama performances were both beloved and inspiring in the 1960s and '70s. With her groundbreaking honest and passionate lyrics, her unusual and innovative rhythms and melody, Nyro's influence is still felt by singers and songwriters today.
Beginning with her childhood and teen years in the Bronx, and ending with her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1997, Soul Picnic details how Nyro was "discovered" as a prodigious eighteen-year-old songwriter, had her songs covered with great success by other singers (most famously, the Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Three Dog Night, and Barbra Streisand), and created her own remarkable albums, such as Eli and the Thirteen Confession and New York Tendaberry. It also tells how a young David Geffen, as her agent and then manager, helped boost her career, but how she ultimately rejected both Geffen and the glare of stardom for a quieter rural life. Nyro was a very private person, and Michele Kort has uncovered aspects of her life offstage never previously revealed, including a romance with famed rock musician Jackson Browne and the love affair that led to the birth of her son, Gil. It also fleshes out her long, loving relationship with painter Maria Desiderio.
Kort features Laura Nyro's music, the making of each of her albums, the musical influences that informed her work, and the important legacy she has left behind. She interviewed nearly all of the producers and arrangers Nyro worked with, and many of the musicians who played on her albums. The book also includes a discography of both Nyro's recordings and many covers of her songs by well-known artists.
With passion and style, acclaimed journalist Michele Kort has seamlessly joined thorough research with oral history in this beautifully rendered biography of an important, often-overlooked music icon.
"It was always my road to have high drama onstage-Laura Nyro gave me a map." --Rickie Lee Jones
"She wrote about the world I lived in but infused it with so much passion that ordinary things-the weather, the river, the streets, the kids-glowed with a spiritual energy. Though we were plain, ordinary, nasty kids, when she sang she made us beautiful." --Suzanne Vega
"Laura Nyro you can lump me in with, because Laura exerted an influence on me. I looked to her and took some direction from her." --Joni Mitchell