Cover image for Soul picnic : the music and passion of Laura Nyro
Soul picnic : the music and passion of Laura Nyro
Kort, Michele.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 347 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML420.N97 K67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
ML420.N97 K67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
ML420.N97 K67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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"Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro "is a biography of the pioneering singer-songwriter whose recordings and high-drama performances were both beloved and inspiring in the 1960s and '70s. With her groundbreaking honest and passionate lyrics, her unusual and innovative rhythms and melody, Nyro's influence is still felt by singers and songwriters today.
Beginning with her childhood and teen years in the Bronx, and ending with her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1997, "Soul Picnic "details how Nyro was "discovered" as a prodigious eighteen-year-old songwriter, had her songs covered with great success by other singers (most famously, the Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Three Dog Night, and Barbra Streisand), and created her own remarkable albums, such as "Eli and the Thirteen Confession "and "New York Tendaberry. "It also tells how a young David Geffen, as her agent and then manager, helped boost her career, but how she ultimately rejected both Geffen and the glare of stardom for a quieter rural life. Nyro was a very private person, and Michele Kort has uncovered aspects of her life offstage never previously revealed, including a romance with famed rock musician Jackson Browne and the love affair that led to the birth of her son, Gil. It also fleshes out her long, loving relationship with painter Maria Desiderio.
Kort features Laura Nyro's music, the making of each of her albums, the musical influences that informed her work, and the important legacy she has left behind. She interviewed nearly all of the producers and arrangers Nyro worked with, and many of the musicians who played on her albums. The book also includes a discography of both Nyro's recordings and many covers of her songs by well-known artists.
With passion and style, acclaimed journalist Michele Kort has seamlessly joined thorough research with oral history in this beautifully rendered biography of an important, often-overlooked music icon.

Author Notes

Los Angeles-based writer and editor Michele Kort has been a journalist for twenty-five years. Writing for the Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. Reader, Redbook, The Advocate, and L.A. Weekly, she has won several national awards. During the past four years, Kort's main project was researching and writing this biography of Laura Nyro.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

"Some will feel saved by her music," Kort says, and that accurately indicates her stance on the influential '60s singer-songwriter whose "And When I Die," "Eli's Coming," "Wedding Bell Blues," and "Stoned Soul Picnic," became signature songs for Blood, Sweat and Tears, Three Dog Night, and the Fifth Dimension--acts that appealed to a different, more mainstream audience than Nyro herself did. While providing hits to sparkly rock featherweights (i.e., some of the era's consistent hit makers), Nyro endured management by chameleon supreme David Geffen, which was unsettling for her but makes for good reading. Always enigmatic, she was somewhat secretive near the end of her life, after she received "the worst possible diagnosis: stage 4 ovarian cancer," which she "definitely felt she was going to get," says her brother. Nyro was one of the songwriters whose output gives "Age of Aquarius" rock its lingering cachet, and it is unfortunate that too many middle-of-the-road musicians have made elevator music out of it. Kort's admiring biography begins to give Nyro and her impressive music their due. --Mike Tribby

Library Journal Review

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" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Foreword and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Preludep. xv
1 One Child Bornp. 1
2 Teenage Primal Heartbeatp. 13
3 More Than a New Discoveryp. 24
4 Monterey and Geffenp. 39
5 Eli's Comin'p. 51
6 New York Tendaberryp. 64
7 Top Tenp. 84
8 Singer-Songwriterp. 97
9 Beads of Sweatp. 107
10 Gonna Take a Miraclep. 121
11 Marriage--and a Divorcep. 136
12 Smilep. 152
13 Season of Lightsp. 167
14 Nestedp. 178
15 Mother's Spiritualp. 188
16 Roadnotesp. 208
17 The Bottom Linep. 223
18 Walk the Dogp. 232
19 Angel in the Darkp. 245
20 A World to Carry Onp. 264
Afterwordp. 275
Selected Bibliographyp. 277
Notesp. 281
Discographyp. 315
Selected Coversp. 331
Indexp. 337