Laura Nyro

When "the Bronx Ophelia" flew these earthly bonds in the spring of 1997, she left loyal and prostrate fans bereft of their three-octave, sweet-voiced chanteuse in a pop-glam-modern rock world. Laura Nyro's 49 years were characterized by purity of purpose: her songs, her themes, her way, and her deeply felt lyrics and singular performance style demanded close attention. Nyro's music was sometimes a puzzle in the increasingly cacophonous concert realm of the late '60s where music was filtered through a substance-driven haze, and her first few public appearances were unsatisfactory. Although the video of her 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival performance was less disastrous than her personal impression of the event and her association with David Geffen later booked her into more fitting arenas, she endured for a time the epitaph 'elitist' for writing complex musical and lyrical scores. Nyro was a friend of Bill Graham, for whose houses she attracted an 'uptown crowd,' and her albums were unimpressive but solid sellers despite her habit of withdrawing from the public eye just as she garnered popularity. Over the years, the black haired, black velvet-garbed sylph turned sweet mama on her way to becoming the ultimate feminist, and many of her best creations are familiar today as covers by bands ranging from Peter, Paul and Mary, The Fifth Dimension, Blood Sweat and Tears and Three Dog Night to Linda Ronstadt and Suzanne Vega. "And When I Die," a prescient piece written early in her career, is Laura Nyro's most fitting finale.

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