…I hear that it’s cold way down there

Those who have cited her as a major influence include: Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper, Steely Dan and Melissa Manchester.  Todd Rundgren affirms that after listening to her, he stopped “writing songs like The Who and started writing songs like Laura,” while Elton John (whose song “Burn Down the Mission” was written with her style in mind) confessed that he “idolized her…the soul, the passion, just the out and out audacity of the way her rhythmic and melody changes came was like nothing I’d heard before.”

Born Laura Nigro in 1947 in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Gilda, a bookkeeper, and Louis, a piano tuner and jazz trumpeter. As a child, she taught herself piano and composed her first songs at age eight. As a teenager she sang with friends in subway stations and on street corners and attended Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art.  She also began to experiment with a stage name, finally settling on Laura Nyro.

At the age of 17 Laura Nyro sold her first song (which happens to be today’s selection), for $5,000, to Peter, Paul and Mary.  A record deal followed and her debut album, “More Than a New Discovery” was recorded in 1966.  Although not a huge success for Nyro, many of the album’s songs became hits for other artists, including “Wedding Bell Blues” topping the charts for The 5th Dimension, “Stoney End” (reaching Number 6 on the charts) for Barbra Streisand and (once again), today’s selection, this time for Blood Sweat & Tears, who peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Charts with the song.

It’s fascinating to note that Nyro had actually considered becoming lead singer for Blood, Sweat & Tears after Al Kooper left the group, but was dissuaded by her manager. Instead she went on to produce her “break-through” second album in 1968, “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession,” which like its predecessor, also furnished hit covers by other artists, including “Eli’s Coming” for Three Dog Night; and “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Sweet Blindness” both for The 5th Dimension, who must have thanked their lucky stars for her very existence.

But the streak began with the song Nyro first sold to Peter, Paul and Mary.  You’ve heard it performed by others and I ask you…now, just a few years shy of a half-century since it was written, whose version would you want played at your funeral?

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Monday 18 June 

And When I Die

 And when I die

And when I’m dead, dead and gone

There’ll be one child born

And a world to carry on

 To carry on

 I’m not scared of dyin’

And I don’t really care

If it’s peace you find in dyin’

Well then let the time be near

If it’s peace you find in dyin’

When dyin’ time is here

Just bundle up my coffin

Cause its cold way down there

I hear that it’s cold way down there

Yeah, crazy cold way down there

 And when I die

And when I’m gone

There’ll be one child born

And a world to carry on

My troubles are many

They’re as deep as a well

I can swear there ain’t no heaven

But I pray there ain’t no hell

Swear there ain’t no heaven

And pray there ain’t no hell

But I’ll never know by livin’

But only my dyin’ will tell

Yeah, only my dyin’ will tell

 And when I die

And when I’m gone

There’ll be one child born

And a world to carry on

to carry on

Give me my freedom

For as long as I be

All I ask of livin’

Is to have no chains on me

All I ask of livin’

Is to have no chains on me

And all I ask of dyin’

Is to go naturally

Only want to go naturally

Don’t want to go by the Devil

Don’t want to go by the Demon

Don’t want to go by Satan

Don’t want to die uneasy

Just let me go naturally

And when I die

And when I’m gone

There’ll be one child born

There’ll be one child born

When I die

There’ll be one child born

When I die

There’ll be one child born

When I die

There’ll be one child born

When I die

There’ll be one child born

When I die…

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