Laura Nyro Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Laura Nyro 1947–

American songwriter and singer.

Laura Nyro was one of the first truly urban songwriters to emerge in the 1960s. As William Kloman wrote: "Her love of the city is expressed in the convulsively shifting moods of her music." For Nyro, "the struggle in the city is between health and sickness—God and the Devil." Her music reflects this struggle, especially its effects on her. On her album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, Nyro celebrates her own victory in the struggle. After a particularly harrowing experience with LSD, Nyro says she "stopped being a loser and became a winner instead."

Nyro plays the piano in her personal appearances, but she cannot read music. When telling her back-up musicians what she wants, Nyro describes the sounds in terms of colors. Her first album, More Than a Discovery, was not very successful due partially to the fact that the musicians and producers who were working with Nyro did not know what she was trying to do with her music. On subsequent albums she was granted full control over the production. On New York Tendaberry, Nyro coined the word "tendaberry" to describe the warmth and tenderness she feels is at the center of the city. The songs here reflect her own experiences of New York City. As the title of Christmas and the Beads of Sweat suggests, Nyro despairs of finding joy in the season amid war and inner conflict. One more album was made, not her own compositions, before Laura retired from public life.

In 1975 Laura Nyro made her comeback with Smile. The songs here reflected Nyro's life during her absence—her marriage, divorce, new love, and a more natural life away from the city. She has since released several more albums, but most critics feel that none of these match the talent of her earlier work.