I was listening to Laura Nyro the other evening thinking about how late I had come to this blessed singer/songwriter. Possessing the most sonorous and powerful soulful voice, raised in the Bronx, hailed by many of the songwriters of our generation including Bob Dylan, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Rickie Lee Jones and Todd Rungren, she broke the mould of traditional songcraft and created a world where the artist could run free. Her beautiful arrangements harked back to the world of harmony groups and do-wop bands she listened to as a kid hanging out and singing on street corners for dimes. Her songs have been recorded by the great and the good, yet she remains relatively unknown. And there is something about her that I didn’t know until very recently. She died of ovarian cancer in 1997 at the age of 49, from the same disease, and at exactly the same age as her mother. And herein lies the coincidence, joining lines with my own family history. My beautiful sister, Valerie died from ovarian cancer at the age of 49 in the very same year as Laura, 1997. But that’s not all. My beautiful mother, Mavis also died of ovarian cancer, also at the age of 49. The BRCA1 gene mutation affects my family – and no doubt, Laura’s too. Its all a little too much.
Her music somehow now means even more to me.
Check out this lovely and moving short home movie from 1995, shot before she knew.