Laura Nyro – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession
I begin today’s post with a somewhat glaring omission from earlier this month, March 3rd to be exact, as that was the 50th anniversary of the release of Laura Nyro’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. In a way, my exclusion is symbolic of Nyro’s career. She was my answer I couldn’t think of recently to a music forum thread question (“Name an album you bought blindly without having ever listened to the artist”). This album is not only on lists of important releases from 1968, but it’s in my collection and my wife and I enjoy listening to it, yet I still forgot to honor it on the correct day. Self-flogging complete.
If you aren’t familiar with Nyro or this album, it’s understandable. I wasn’t either until a couple of years ago, and it was only due to reading about her in posts by zealous fans of hers on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums that I gave her a listen and learned a bit about her. The music doesn’t fit a particular niche, as it combines pop, jazz, rock, and soul. I think of Nyro as a songwriter’s songwriter: Her songs were covered by the likes of Blood, Sweat & Tears, The 5th Dimension, Three Dog Night, and Barbara Streisand, and she influenced many other songwriters including Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and Todd Rundgren.
So, why is Laura Nyro not more widely known and appreciated? Perhaps a reader could enlighten me more, but it seems she didn’t pursue the limelight as hard as her contemporaries. Though she performed live, Nyro avoided TV appearances. Also, keep in mind we’re hurtling toward the period when Carole King (a very successful songwriter since the early 1960’s), Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon would become the glamour girls of the singer/songwriter genre. And sadly, as is the case with many of the artists I’m writing about, she died young. Nyro passed away in 1997 at the age of 49 from ovarian cancer, the same age her mother died and from the same disease. She was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
And her version of Wedding Bell Blues, which she wrote at the age of 18, from her 1967 debut album:
- Sweet Blindness
- Poverty Train
- Lonely Women
- Eli’s Comin’
- Stoned Soul Picnic
- Woman’s Blues
- Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)
- December’s Boudoir
- The Confession