Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro

Overview

Laura Nyro was a beloved and pioneering singer-songwriter of the 1960s and 1970s, whose songs were covered with great success by the Fifth Dimension; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Three Dog Night; and Barbra Streisand. This first biography uncovers previously never revealed details, including a love affair with Jackson Browne, and her relationship with painter Maria Desiderio.

Unappreciated in her time, Nyro's legacy is currently experiencing a revival. With her groundbreakingly ...

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Overview

Laura Nyro was a beloved and pioneering singer-songwriter of the 1960s and 1970s, whose songs were covered with great success by the Fifth Dimension; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Three Dog Night; and Barbra Streisand. This first biography uncovers previously never revealed details, including a love affair with Jackson Browne, and her relationship with painter Maria Desiderio.

Unappreciated in her time, Nyro's legacy is currently experiencing a revival. With her groundbreakingly honest and passionate lyrics, her unusual and innovative rhythms and melody, Nyro's influence is still felt by singers and songwriters today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Library Journal
Young women growing up in the tumultuous 1960s found that the music of Bronx-born singer/songwriter Nyro was something they could cling to. Journalist Kort, who obviously felt the same way, here portrays the enigmatic performer in this first account of her life (1947-97), cut tragically short by ovarian cancer. Nyro was just a teen when she began what would become a long recording career, though renditions of her works by others (e.g., the Fifth Dimension, Barbra Streisand) would generally be more successful commercially than any of her own. Kort gathers every date, description, and dialog to draw a complete picture of her subject. For the legion of now middle-aged fans, there is perhaps too much minutiae regarding studio sessions, musical arrangements, chord variations, personnel changes, and industry infighting. Nyro's relationship with eventual power-broker David Geffen (her agent, representative, and friend) is more interesting, though the ending of that tale remains somewhat ambiguous. There is nothing here from Nyro herself, except what is culled from numerous interviews and the shared memories of family, friends, and fellow musicians. Musicologists and students of the history of popular music will wallow in the preponderance of information, especially as it pertains to Nyro's unquestionable influence on the music industry and the growth of women as both performers and composers. Those of us who knew every lyric of every song (and still do) would prefer a more accessible portrait of our goddess. Still, this biography is recommended for academic and public libraries. (Photos not seen.) Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A detailed biography of the influential singer-songwriter. Laura Nyro (1947–97) was underappreciated in her time, journalist Kort argues persuasively in her debut, noting that this is the first substantial look at the artist's life and music. However, Nyro's unique songwriting inspired great early interest and later on an obsessively loyal fan base that included luminaries like Joni Mitchell and Peter Buck. She first gained attention as a shy, Bronx-bound teenager with a prodigious production of ethereal piano compositions combining jazz, pop, and folk influences. Her early contacts with the music industry were marked by, as Kort puts it, "disdain for her looks and style uneasily coexisting with a recognition of her talent and commercial potential." Nyro, who said, "I work months and hours and years and a lifetime on my songs," dropped her initial management for her Verve debut, More Than a New Discovery (1967), in favor of David Geffen, portrayed as the young singer's soulmate. (Their friendship dissolved when she chose to stay with Clive Davis's CBS Records, instead of moving to Geffen's startup label.) Her songs became hits for acts like the Fifth Dimension and 3 Dog Night; the royalties from "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Eli's Coming" allowed her "to follow her muse wherever it led her." Nyro stood out in the decadent late-1960s rock milieu; her drug use was tame, and her personal life discreet. After several unsatisfying traditional relationships, including a tumultuous marriage to a Vietnam veteran and a briefer affair with an Indian national, with whom the increasingly feminist-identified Nyro had a son, she found lasting contentment in a low-profile relationship with painter MariaDesiderio. Fans will enjoy this bio, although others may note its sedate pace and aversion to critical views of its subject. Since Kort's research unearthed many reviews that now seem like snide misappraisals, one can understand her advocacy of Nyro here. Captures the essence of a widely admired, improbably successful artist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312303181
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/2/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 983,435
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Michele Kort, Los Angeles-based writer and editor, has been a journalist for over twenty years. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Songwriter, Ms., Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. Reader, Redbook, InStyle, The Advocate, and L.A. Weekly, she has won numerous awards. She also coauthored the memoir The End of Innocence with Chastity Bono.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2002

    An Enigmatic and Beautiful Life Revelaed

    I highly recommend this biography of singer/ songwriter Laura Nyro. It is an exceptionally well written and researched work exploring the life and music of a woman who was, to many, both mysterious and mythic. Baby Boomers who came of age in the latter Sixties and early Seventies will both enjoy and gain a new appreciation of Nyro, who led the way for the explosion of female singer/songwriters, always somehow reamaining in the background as others made hits of her songs. This is also a wonderful book for younger people who are so familiar and comfortable with the women singer/ songwriters of today. Nyro paved the way and it was not easy. They would certainly benefit from learning about this remarkable woman whose music lit a fire that still burns. Nyro, who died of cancer in 1997 at the age of only forty nine, was a person who remained true to herself and to her talent. Michele Kort's biography of Laura Nyro is a wonderfully interesting revealing of a truly unique, talented and beautiful life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2002

    SURRY DOWN

    Well, I must admit, I am in the middle of the book, but Kort nailed Laura Nyro. There is more insight packed into this labor of love and great journalism then thought possible. Laura Nyro passed away in 95 of Ovarian Cancer, but here, you enter a world that really few knew. Laura was very private, and kept it that way. She was as mysterious during her life as after. So, READ this book. It is so great. Also do not forget that a new songbook, and live cd are coming in May and June of 2002.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2002

    Loving & Insightful & Informative & True

    Reading this soulful, stirring book reminded me of the joy I experienced when I first heard Laura Nyro blasting from my 'sensitive' older brother's stereo. I was only 13 but that voice stopped me dead. I had thought I knew the female voice, having sat with my ears glued to CKLW coming across Lake Erie from Detroit, introducing me to the great voices of my life, from Dinah to Aretha to Martha to Dusty and so on. But the voice of Laura was something else altogether---soulful yes but also intelligent and at times, heartbreaking. This wonderful book brings all those voices back to me. Right now there is a renaissance of R&B voices coming out of the radio, with Mary J. Blige supremely leading the pack. But in the early 60's most of the women I heard were crafted and packaged by someone else. Laura Nyro was always her own creation. And thank God for that. When I got this book in the mail, I meant to just glance at it and get to my own work. Instead, Michele Kort captured me completely and I couldn't put it down. I haven't even eaten today. Kudos to Kort for getting underneath the beating heart of a gifted artist. This book sent me right to my stack of Nyro CD's. I expect to stay there for quite a while. Brava!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2010

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