Singer-songwriter Laura Nyro was six months shy of her 50th birthday when she died of cancer four years ago last Sunday. Nyro was one of America's most accomplished pop composers, having written hit songs for Barbra Streisand, Blood, Sweat and Tears and The Fifth Dimension. But she was also a tireless performer. The long-awaited release of Laura Nyro's final album, "Angel In The Dark" has finally arrived.
Her voice was so powerful, her words so clear and meaningful, it's almost impossible to imagine the tragedy that soon befell Laura Nyro. Less than two years after she recorded her song "Serious Playground" Nyro began chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer.
Laura Nyro's musical journey began in The Bronx, New York. She wrote her first song at age seven. Bob Dylan and John Coltrane were two early influences. Her feet were firmly planted in pop music, but she often incorporated soul and R&B. She wrote two of the biggest hits of the 1960s: Blood, Sweat and Tears' "And When I Die" and The Fifth Dimension's "Wedding Bell Blues." She was soon grouped with songwriters Carole King and Ellie Greenwich who worked out of the famed Brill Building in New York City. Her 1969 album "New York Tendaberry" ranks as one of her best-ever solo efforts.
Combining soul and gospel with jazz and pop was still Laura Nyro's passion when she entered the studio for the last time in 1995, to record "Angel In The Dark." In addition to eight originals, she covers the R&B classics "La La Means I Love You," "Ooh Baby Baby," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Walk On By."
Pop standards were also a Laura Nyro specialty. The album features haunting versions of Rodgers & Hart's "He Was Too Good To Me" and George & Ira Gershwin's "Embraceable You."
Laura Nyro was 49 when she lost her battle with cancer on April 8, 1997. She died soon after the release of a 34-song retrospective "The Best of Laura Nyro - Stoned Soul Picnic." Her last live performance took place on Christmas Eve 1994, at the Bottom Line in New York. Rounder Records plans to release a CD of that concert later this year.
"Angel In The Dark," features Laura Nyro with John Tropea on guitar, Freddie Washington on bass and Bernard Purlie on drums.