American singer and songwriter Laura Nyro has one of those voices that once you hear it, you'll never forget. Born from Russian Jewish and Italian heritage, her style crafted in the late 60s blended the Brill Building sounds with more complex arrangements all carried by her singular vocal styling which is still as clairvoyant today as it was over 40 years ago.
Nyro's career began early. She sold her first song to Peter, Paul, & Mary and began performing at 18 including an appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. However, it wasn't until David Geffen took over as her manager and the arrival of her second album Eli and the Thirteen Confession in 1968, New York Tendaberry in 1969, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat in 70, and 1971's Gonna Take a Miracle which was her first album full of only non-originals recorded with Labelle. By the time she retired in 1971, newly married and uncomfortable with celebrity, Nyro was 24. In 1973, Columbia acquired her first album (recorded in 1966) and reissued it as The First Songs.
The marriage wasn't to last, however, and Nyro returned to music in 1976. But, she was always uncomfortable in the spotlight, turning down numerous opportunities to play late-night TV and never filming an official video. Indeed, for all Nyro's success as a singer, her songs were what buoyed her as her songs were turned into hits by Barbara Streisand; the 5th Dimension; Blood, Sweat, & Tears; and Peter, Paul and Mary.
In 1996, Nyro was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her label, Columbia, with Nyro's input, gathered a two disc set of her best and in 1997 released Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro. Nyro lived to see the release and passed on April 8, 1997 at the age of 49. The same disease had taken her mother.