Archive for February, 2009

Farewell, Aunt Kaye

Aunt Kaye and Laura, 1987. Courtesy of Danny Nigro

Aunt Kaye and Laura, 1987. Courtesy of Danny Nigro

Laura Nyro’s paternal aunt, Kaye Nigro Pope, died the other day at age 91. Laura’s dad Lou, now a remarkable 93, is the last of his three siblings still with us.

I had a lovely interview with Kaye when I was working on my Nyro biography . The best story she told me was about a very close encounter she had with infant Laura. Kaye’s son Joel, her brother Mike’s daughter Willette and Laura were all born within a month of each other, and one afternoon Kaye found herself watching over three crying babies. 

“So I breast-fed Joel,” she told me, “and then I breast-fed Willette, and then I breast-fed Laura.”

As I wrote in my book, “Considering they all nursed from the same well, so to speak, it’s perhaps not surprinsing that Laura’s generation of first cousins includes an inordinate number of musicians.”

Thanks to Laura’s cousin (and my dear friend) Danny Nigro for the wonderful picture of Laura and Kaye at a family gathering in 1987.

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Be My Little Baby

Estelle Bennett of the Ronettes passed on the other day–she was Ronnie Spector’s (nee Veronica Bennett) sister. We still have Ronnie with us, and Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las, but every loss from that great era of the girl groups just makes it feel like it’s drifting further away.

Nyro of course was deeply influenced by the girl groups of the late 50s/early 60s, although the Ronettes were probably not at the top of her pantheon. I’d guess the Shirelles held down that spot, considering that Laura later covered their hits “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Dedicated to the One I Love.” And don’t forget the one-hit wonder Jaynetts of the awesome “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses,” and certainly not Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles or the Shangri-Las. I always detected a good dose of lead singer Weiss’s yearning in Laura’s voice. Check out “Right Now and Not Later” and see if you don’t agree.

In my Nyro bio, I quoted media critic Susan J. Douglas about how the girl groups, unlike their female predecessors, “were not singing about doggies in windows or old Cape Cod” [anyone remember Patti Page?] but rather giving voice to real teen concerns about identity. I wrote that the music “certainly gave voice to an angst-filled, hungry-for-experience girl like Laura.”

There are lots of collections of girl-group music (besides albums devoted to a single group), but I’m especially fond of this one, One Kiss Can Lead to Another, which contains some amazing oddities (“Peanut Duck,” anyone?) and great lesser-known songs. 

I went a little crazy with the links here, but you might enjoy a nice musical adventure through girl-group land–the land of innocence, now sadly lost–if you follow them.

UPDATE: Great piece in The New York Times today about Estelle. Life wasn’t all “walking in the rain and wishing on a star up above,” sadly…

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The house in Danbury, Connecticut, where Laura Nyro lived and died is up for sale: Here’s the info.

In the photos on the realty site, you can see both the “big house” and the cottage over the pond. The property is really quite lovely, and it’s easy to imagine Laura walking around amidst her beloved “trees of the ages.”

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