Hump day. First up, Marcia found some articles about Janis Ian and a lot of them were of Janis speaking about how Laura Nyro created her art and things like that. Laura Nyro was a great songwriter and a really good singer-songwriter. But she died in the 90s and she was more known of than known to many.
So Janis Ian went on the record talking about Laura and that really touched Marcia because it happens so rarely. Especially when it's a female artist. Women and men will go on and on about Bob Dylan, for example, but try to find the ones who'll go on the record praising a Janis Ian. And Janis is damn talented.
Classical music and jazz joined Laura Nyro's playlist. She attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, where singer Janis Ian was a year behind her. Ian says both of their families shared roots in progressive politics.
We were surrounded by the civil-rights movement, by the women's-rights movement, by the gay-rights movement," Ian says. "All of those things were flourishing in New York."
Laura Nyro reflected them in her music. In the wake of the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Nyro wrote a gospel-tinged number calling for peace and understanding.
Nyro knew how she wanted her songs to sound, and Cavaliere says the Bronx native was tough in the studio when he produced a record for her.
"She would talk with a cigarette in her mouth dangling, like you see in the movies. If she didn't like something I said, she'd hit me," Cavaliere says. "She'd punch me in the friggin' arm like a guy: Wham!"
I'll write about Raising Hope tomorrow. Right now, let me explain that Janis wrote and sang the huge mega hit "At Seventeen." She also wrote "Stars" and "Jesse." Not Carly Simon's "Jesse" which is also a great song. Carly's starts, "Oh, mother, say a prayer for me, Jesse's back in town, it won't be easy." Janis's "Jesse" opens with "Jesse, come home, there's a hole in the bed, where we slept, now it's growing cold, hey Jess, your face, in the place where we lay, in the hearth, all apart, it hangs in my heart . . ."
And I love "In The Winter." "But in the winter, extra blankets for the cold . . ."
So she's a singer-songwriter who started out with folk and she's really talented.
Laura Nyro was really talented too. Only one song she sang cracked the hot 100 (a cover of Carole King's "Up On The Roof"). But she was an FM artist and underground. And other people recorded her songs and had hits with them.
"Stoney End" was recorded by Darlene Love and Peggy Lipton who each saw some chart success with it regionally. But Barbra Streisand took it into the top five. The Fifth Dimension took Nyro's "Wedding Bell Blues" to number one. They also took other Laura songs into the top forty like "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Save The Country." Three Dog Night took her "Eli's Coming" to the top ten. Blood, Sweat and Tears made her "And When I Die" a mega hit.
She was an album artist on FM radio. My favorite of her albums is New York Tenderberry.
My favorite Nyro songs? That's hard. My top ten is . . .
2) "To A Child"
3) "Captain St. Lucifer"
4) "Farmer Joe (Once It Was Alright)"
5) "Beads of Sweat"
6) "Japanese Restaurant"
7) "Save the Country"
8) "Sweet Blindness"
9) "Christmas In My Soul"
10) "When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag."
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"