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Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro Paperback – 14 May 2003

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st St. Martin's Griffin Ed edition (14 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312303181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312303181
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 369,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


It was always my road to have high drama onstage-Laura Nyro gave me a map. "Rickie Lee Jones" She wrote about the world I lived in but infused it with so much passion that ordinary things-the weather, the river, the streets, the kids-glowed with a spiritual energy. Though we were plain, ordinary, nasty kids, when she sang she made us beautiful. "Suzanne Vega" Laura Nyro you can lump me in with, because Laura exerted an influence on me. I looked to her and took some direction from her. "Joni Mitchell""

About the Author

Michele Kort, Los Angeles-based writer and editor, has been a journalist for over twenty years. Writing for the "Los Angeles Times, Songwriter, Ms., Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. Reader, Redbook, InStyle, The Advocate, "and "L.A. Weekly," she has won numerous awards. She also coauthored the memoir "The End of Innocence" with Chastity Bono.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book about an important and under-esimated singer/songwriter, who had a tremendous influence on popular music which seems to be rarely acknowledged. Laura Nyro equals talent - as a songwriter, singer and pianist.
For people like myself who have been listening to Laura Nyro's music for around 30 years it's great to have a detailed biography and complete discography.
This book should help to ensure that Nyro is remembered,as she deserves to be for her wonderful songs and dynamic voice. It's difficult to compare Nyro to anyone, but she may be closest in songwriting skills and vocal and instrumental talent to Joni Mitchell, and there's no higher praise than that.
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Format: Paperback
A very thoughtful, well researched, and sensitive book describing the music and style of Laura Nyro. This book uncovers Laura's musical journey. It reveals a unique and uncompromising artist, whose drive toward emotional and musical honesty surpassed any desire for fame. Laura's unique sensibilities and moralities about her musical gifts were clearly integrated in an unusual style. The book reveals and integrity of spirit, while a quirky, unrelentingly controlling musical direction, that could drive others crazy. A great book for those seeking a greater sense of Laura's creative journey.
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Format: Paperback
The other reviewers have said it all really. Thanks Michele for this. I have loved Laura Nyro's work for a very long time. If you're in anyway interested in knowing more then this is a must-read book. But as Michele says at the end, if you're new and want to know more go straight to the albums.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At last, a defintive read on a one-off artist.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x922e03b4) out of 5 stars 34 reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90fb8aa4) out of 5 stars I Feel Like I know Laura 26 Feb. 2005
By Robert Culbertson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
From the first time I heard her on the radio singing "Save The Country", I have been enamored with Laura Nyro. I loved her voice, piano and songs, and thought her work on New York Tendaberry was some of the best and most unique work I had ever heard. I also liked her looks and her demeanor. I liked her so much, I wrote her an affectionate letter via Columbia Records in 1969, but, to my regret, she never answered.

Michele Kort, in her outstanding biography of Laura, has made me feel like I did get a chance to meet her, afterall. Her writing pulled me in from the first page, and I felt like I was right along side of Laura as I relived her ascendancy to musical greatness. Ms. Kort informs the reader of many interesting facts, such as Ms. Nyro having been named by her musician father after the song from the classic movie, Laura, and that she had lots of training in voice but had fairly limited piano training.

Ms. Kort takes us through all Laura's albums, what was going on in her life when they were being conceived, developed and recorded, who produced and engineered them, who the other musicians and vocalists were, and the various negotiations Laura engaged in with the record companies to get the result she wanted. I found this information of great interest and I would not have minded at all if the book had been another three hundred pages.

Most gratifying was that Michele Kort has written a quite detailed book which gives the reader a very good sense of Laura and some of her idiosyncrasies, but she always treats her with the greatest respect. Over and over, through the many people who knew Laura and are quoted, one realizes that Laura was a genuinely sweet, kind person who was steadfastly more interested in the integrity of her music than any commercial success that others may have urged her toward.

I fully recommend this book to anyone, particularly to those who are Laura Nyro fans. After reading it, I feel even more sad that she passed on so early, but I at least feel like I got to know her a bit. While she never answered my letter those many years ago, I feel like I finally got to meet her and know her, and I'm even more enamored with her than before.
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90fb1414) out of 5 stars The "Secret Key" 16 Jun. 2003
By R. Arnold - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Reading this book finally gave me that special "secret key" into a world no one was privy to until now. Laura Nyro's mysterious persona was always very compelling. She was someone you never could get too much of, because there never was much we were allowed to know. So, those of us who fell in love with her amazing music always were forced to read into the lyrics, to wonder, to get lost in a trance while listening as we saw visions of New York streets and imagined the people and scenes in her songs. I was 16 years old the first time I escaped into Laura's music, and that was decades ago. My reaction as I listened to each song, was that I was stunned. The songs were stunning. Her voice: stunning. It was that melding of jazz, gospel, Broadway and how every note she played on the piano was intentionally placed and significant. And how her voice captured all the raw emotion of real New York life. She made me yearn to go there, to feel what she felt, to see what she saw.

She was the pioneer, a woman whose creative abilities were, in my opinion, up until that time, unsurpassed by anyone, male or female. That's why the book is such a treasure. It unlocks so many of the mysteries that many of us had resigned ourselves to never know. Unlike the other reviewer, I relished the details of the recording sessions and everything else, every other detail about Laura's life, personality, art. At the risk of sounding snobbish, I suppose you have to be the following to truly appreciate what is offered here: 1) an absolute die-hard Laura Nyro follower and fan from the 70s, and 2) probably a songwriter and musician yourself in order to understand what it takes to create the kind of work she created. (I am both).

I suppose to sum it up it just felt really great to finally have the real Laura, unshrouded and revealed to us. The great thing is that--it was refreshing to know that she really was just a regular girl, not someone who particularly wanted or even warranted that dark aura, just someone who had a real life and didn't go for the showbiz thing very much. And, even better: someone very wonderful in her personal life as far as her generosity and kindness--and full of laughter, humor, delight, and loving friendships. I took away the details of a woman who had an unparalleled musical gift, many friends, a happy relationship, loved her child, and had a generally beautiful life. After all these years, and with her death, it is nice to know that she could have just been one of us. I guess you might say this book gave me some "closure". And, I felt happier as a result of reading AND re-reading it, for its endearing, real-life stories about this lovely human being.
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x945d8b58) out of 5 stars An Enigmatic and Beautiful Life Revealed 16 April 2002
By Jay C. Sabol - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an engrossing and extremely well written account of the life of mysterious and mythic singer/songwriter Laura Nyro. Baby Boomers who came of age in the latter Sixties and early Seventies will love this wonderfully balanced account of Nyro's tragically short life. The author, not by artificial construction, but by simply telling the story by way of the many authoritative and definitive sources available to her, captures the excitement that Nyro's stunning music created. Younger readers, who are comfortable with their favorite female singer/songwriters of today, will also benefit tremendously by reading this biography. Nyro paved the way for the female singer/songwriter and it was not an easy path to walk. Readers will also be intrigued by the latter part of Nyro's life which, to some, is shrouded in mystery. Without giving anything away to spoil the fun, one is deeply impressed by just how true Nyro was to herself, how uncompromising she was when it came to her music. Despite the fact that Nyro died tragically of cancer at the age of only forty nine, this biography reveals a life of the deepest integrity and beauty. Anyone who reads this book will never forget it.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90fe9e1c) out of 5 stars Gonna Take A Miracle To Read A Better Biography 3 May 2002
By michael mcguire - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I confess. I belong to the tribe of souls who have long worshiped at the altar of Laura Nyro. Most of us were there back in 1967 at the beginning of her career, when her voice and piano first tore through our consciousness, awakening us, and it forever altered our relationship to music and melody. Her music has been the central soundtrack to our lives, but not just as background sound, we cared about her music as art, it reached us at the deepest levels of our hearts and souls and it transfigured and healed many of us. Indeed, we experienced it as religion, and it has never left us. We are a unique breed of fans in that Laura Nyro is more than our favorite singer/songwriter. We believe we were "saved" by her music. Michelle Kort understands this essential nature of those us in the tribe, and we have waited a long long time for someone as capable as she to write Laura's story. She has done an absolutely fantastic job with this biography, especially given the difficulty of the task. Difficult because no other figure in popular music remained as mysterious and elusive and unpenetrable as Laura did throughout her life. She firecely protected her privacy at the expense of her career, and she so singularly, uncompromisingly pursued her craft without a thought to self-promotion, that consequently very little about either her personal or professional life was ever revealed to the public. We who have loved and listened to Laura for over 30 years had to settle for the occasional rare interview, or little scraps of news and gossip, often inaccurate, passed down through the tribe and endlessy debated among ourselves. Michelle Kort's miracle of a book corrects this long silence and finally tells the story we have breathlessly waited for most of our lives. The book is filled with revelations and surprises as Kort lifts the veil and illuminates a life so long hidden in shadow. I suspect Kort herself is a tribe member but this is not the adoring gushings of a star struck fan. It is a balanced, meticulously researched and objective portrait, and with the full cooperation of Nyro's friends, family and the musicians she worked with, Laura Nyro the girl, the woman and the artist, finally is given life and we are able to see and know her in a way impossible until now. That is the true wonder of this marvelous book and the stunning achievment of this mesmerizing biography. That it is Kort's first book is remarkable and she should be very proud. And for those of us who still carry the torch for Laura, we are so grateful to Michele Kort for telling us this story we so longed and needed to hear.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x912d9e4c) out of 5 stars The Greatest Singer's Story 8 Sept. 2002
By Lee Armstrong - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Those of us who have lived with Laura's music know HOW much she means to us and HOW deeply we have been affected by her music. She spoke for the emotional soul of a generation, able to reach the height of ecstacy and the pit of despair within a few brief measures. For me, her later work is as valuable. "Woman of the World," "Free Thinker" and the gem "Sweet Dream Fade" are also part of my personal soundtrack.
Michele Kort's book is excellent because it is well researched, thorough, and brimming with information. It's weakness is that it does not read like a nice little story; so we have to work a bit to move through it. But the trip is worth the effort. As ardent of a fan as I have been, for some reason I was unaware of the Japanese release of "Season of Lights." To hear that Santana-like jam her band breaks into on "Timer" was worth the price of both "Soul Picnic," the book, & the Japanese CD!
One of the comments I most appreciated in the book came near the end, and is so true. Richard Herrington of the Washington Post says, "Lots of people were later compared to Laura Nyro. Nyro herself was never compared to anyone." Nyro's music was the benchmark of artistry, integrity, passion and wit. This book succeeds in bringing that struggle to attention. For whatever other shortcomings the book may have, for that I am grateful.
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