...but I'll never know by living, only my dying will tell.
Mercury being in retrograde, it seems only fitting that I blast Laura Nyro on the subway. To me, Nyro is all about revisiting things. Coming back, re-thinking, etc. Her songs are so fucking bizarre, it takes a long time to figure them out. My favorite record of hers is, of course, Gonna Take A Miracle, the 1971 covers record with fucking Labelle singing insane back-up. It was one of the records that I stole from my parents' collection as a pre-teen. Even though all of the songs are covers, Nyro's were the first versions I heard, and are therefore definitive in my mind. So today I'm revisiting Laura Nyro, and revisiting her as she revisits songs from her own teenage years.
Growing up, whenever my parents listened to that record, either my mom or my dad would remind me that Nyro died very young. So part of my experience of her music, and that record in particular, is that it's always bound up in dying young. It seemed to me that the sad songs on that album sort of foretold her own death. I know that's not true, but looking back through Nyro's whole catalog yesterday, it's totally all about dying. Her first big break was when she sold the song "And When I Die" to Peter, Paul and Mary at age 18. Kind of a weird folk / soul / goth thing, which is exactly where I want to be.
The last time I was home in California, my mom put on the album while my parents and I were stuck in traffic. We listened to the entire first half in silence, while I was quietly grooving in the back seat. My mom said "You know, I always forget that Laura Nyro is really only great to listen to when you're very, very stoned." Then, pausing to look at me in the rear view mirror, she continued "Good thing for you, huh?" Which is pretty right-on.
Recently, my friend Lola and I were trying to explain to how fabulous Laura Nyro is to Sister Pico. I think Pico was interested in her because of the Patti LaBelle connection, but Lola and I jumped all over each other trying to describe her.
Lola: "She was Jewish!"
Me: "She was Puerto Rican, wasn't she?"
Lola: "Her mom's name was Gilda."
Me: "Yeah but I think her dad was Puerto Rican."
Lola: "She was both."
Me: "She was a lesbian."
Lola: "Yeah, she was gay."
Me: "She was a total lesbo."
Lola: "She's dead."
Me: "Yeah, she totally died."
Lola: "She died really young. Like 49 or something."
Me: "She committed suicide, right?"
Lola: "No!" (pause, shocked that I wouldn't know this) "She died of cancer."
Me: "Same thing."