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Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro

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Though she never had a hit single under her own name, Laura Nyro was a beloved cult artist whose work was a bridge from the Brill Building, girl-group era to that of the thoughtful singer-songwriter. Born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, she sang with pickup groups on New York street corners and was writing songs by her early teens. Her first recorded song was "And When I Die" by Peter, Paul & Mary; a bigger hit version would later be done by Blood, Sweat & Tears. She recorded her first album More Than a New Discovery at age 19 and was signed to Columbia soon after. The first string of Columbia albums-- 1968's Eli & the 13th Confession, 1969's New York Tendaberry and 1970's Christmas & the Beads of Sweat-- was her most acclaimed, creating a personal mix of sophisticated pop and jazz, with lyrics that blurred spiritual and sensual matters. She was widely covered and many of her songs were hits: "Eli's Coming" (Three Dog Night), "Stoney End" (Barbra Streisand), "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Sweet Blindness" (the Fifth Dimension). She recorded her own covers on 1971's Gonna Take a Miracle a '60s soul homage with backup vocals by the newly-christened Labelle. However Nyro was also having reservations about pop...

Though she never had a hit single under her own name, Laura Nyro was a beloved cult artist whose work was a bridge from the Brill Building, girl-group era to that of the thoughtful singer-songwriter. Born Laura Nigro in the Bronx, she sang with pickup groups on New York street corners and was writing songs by her early teens. Her first recorded song was "And When I Die" by Peter, Paul & Mary; a bigger hit version would later be done by Blood, Sweat & Tears. She recorded her first album More Than a New Discovery at age 19 and was signed to Columbia soon after. The first string of Columbia albums-- 1968's Eli & the 13th Confession, 1969's New York Tendaberry and 1970's Christmas & the Beads of Sweat-- was her most acclaimed, creating a personal mix of sophisticated pop and jazz, with lyrics that blurred spiritual and sensual matters. She was widely covered and many of her songs were hits: "Eli's Coming" (Three Dog Night), "Stoney End" (Barbra Streisand), "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Sweet Blindness" (the Fifth Dimension). She recorded her own covers on 1971's Gonna Take a Miracle a '60s soul homage with backup vocals by the newly-christened Labelle. However Nyro was also having reservations about pop stardom, especially after being booed offstage during a shaky performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. She turned down David Geffen's offer to launch his new Asylum label (he signed her then-boyfriend Jackson Browne instead), then took a rural home in Massachusetts and lived in near-seclusion for five years. She made periodic returns to music; her late-'70s albums Smile and Nested both exhibited stronger jazz leanings than before. By the late '80s she was comfortable enough onstage to begin an ongoing series of club dates, including annual Christmas shows at New York's Bottom Line. She remained a perfectionist in the studio and her 1993 album Walk the Dog and Light the Light, produced by Gary Katz of Steely Dan fame, was her first studio album in eleven years and the last of her life. Many of her later songs are more specifically topical and embrace feminism, ecology and animal rights. By the mid '90s she was honored as an influence by a wide range of songwriters, from Joni Mitchell to Alice Cooper to Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz. However she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1996 and died the following year at the Connecticut house she shared with her partner, the painter Maria Desiderio. She was named to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

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1966:
Recorded the songs eventually released as her 1967 debut <i>More Than A New Discovery</i>
1968:
Released first album of classic trilogy, <i>Eli & the Thirteenth Confession</i>
1971:
Released last pre-hiatus album <i>Gonna Take a Miracle</i>, introduces Labelle
1976:
Ended hiatus with <i>Smile</i>
1977:
Released live album, <i>Season of Lights</i>
1997:
Oversaw retrospective CD <i>Stoned Soul Picnic</i> which is released after her death
2012:
Named to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
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