Friday Night Music, July 3: Laura Nyro, “Save the Country”
The Fifth Dimension made Laura Nyro’s mainstream reputation as a songwriter with these and other songs, but I thought it was apt that people hear the original, with Nyro’s slightly off-key, fey voice, on the eve of our nation’s 133th birthday.
The country, in the mid-to-late Sixties, appeared to some to be sliding into revolution, with kids, women and blacks in the streets, talking back to authority. And there were musicians at the time like Laura Nyro and Richie Havens who were pointedly calling for peace and reconciliation among ages and among colors, and enjoyment and appreciation of each other as they were.
Influenced by John Coltrane, Curtis Mayfield, and the girl groups of the Fifties and early Sixties, Laura reached her pinnacle between 1966 and 1970. However, says Wikipedia, Nyro resisted her record label’s efforts to make her more mainstream, to turn her into a super singer-songwriter like Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon or Carole King, who were coming into vogue. She announced her retirement from the music business after marrying a carpenter, David Bianchini, but this was short-lived. The marriage foundered in the mid-Seventies, and she went back to the studio and on the road. She began a relationship with a woman, Maria Desiderio that lasted from the Eighties until the end of her life, and produced her only child, a son, Gil Bianchini (who was not the son of her ex-husband).
In 1996, Nyro was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the same disease that claimed her mother. Before Nyro died, she was approached by Columbia Records to create a CD retrospective of her work. She selected the tracks and approved of the final result, Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro, released in 1997. She died at the age of 49 in April of that year.
Things may have changed since the late Sixties, but they haven’t changed that much. The country still needs saving. And while Roosevelt saved the country from the bottom up, Obama thinks he can save the country from the top down. Which looks a lot like trickle down Reaganomics.
But I digress…