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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Phoebe Snow 1952 - 2011

Yesterday we made a post about pop music history, but little did we know that today we would hear even bigger and sadder music news. Phoebe Snow, one of the world's most gifted singers of pop music, has died at age 60. Snow, best known for her 1975 hit, "Poetry Man", died today from complications from a brain hemorrhage she suffered in 2010.

Sometimes singers who have only have one hit song are dismissed as "one hit wonders", but sometimes that one hit is not only strong enough to cement an entire career, but even becomes a touchstone for an entire generation. Such was the song "Poetry Man", which not only made Snow an overnight star and put her forever in the minds of baby boomers and post-boomers, but was a big enough hit to help define an entire decade.

Soon after releasing "Poetry Man", for which Snow was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy, (she lost to Marvin Hamlisch!), Snow gave birth to a daughter, Valerie, who was severely brain-damaged. Instead of putting Valerie into an institution, Snow decided to stay home and care for her daughter, who died at the age of 31 in 2007. Unfortunately for her fans and the music world, making the decision to stay home limited Snow's ability to record and perform over the years.

To make ends meet, Snow lent her distinctive voice to commercial jingles and occasionally performed, and she was never out of the minds of her fans. At the end of the final episode of Rosanne in 1997, Snow sang the theme song a capella, she performed for Pres. Bill Clinton and guests at Camp David in 1999, and she even sang at Howard Stern's 2008 wedding. She also sang the t.v. theme song for NBC's "Cosby" spin-off, "A Different World". The 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide summed up Snow's career so far by saying: "One of the most gifted voices of her generation, Phoebe Snow can do just about anything stylistically as well as technically."

Many assumed that Snow was African American, but she was born Phoebe Ann Laube to white Jewish parents. She grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey and took her stage name from a character on advertisement posters which appeared on the boxcars of trains which passed her home as a girl. In addition to "Poetry Man", Snow's other biggest hit was a 1975 duet with Paul Simon, "Gone At Last", which made it to #23 on the pop charts.

Our favorite Phoebe Snow moments are when she sang on early episodes of "Saturday Night Live" in the 1970's. On her first appearance in 1975, she sang "Gone At Last" with Paul Simon, and in 1976, she appeared for a second time on the show, singing "Two Fisted Love". The 1976 show was also the very famous one where Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite on the show, which was obviously a joke, although the world found out later in interviews with John Lennon that he and Paul McCartney were at Lennon's apartment in New York that night, watching the show, and actually considered taking a taxi over to the NBC studio and making a surprise appearance. If only. If only. But probably the best Phoebe Snow "SNL" appearance was in 1979 when she sang duets with Linda Ronstadt on "Married Men" and the classic "It's In His Kiss". Snow was possibly the only other pop singer in the 1970's who had a voice big enough to go toe-to-toe with the powerful Ronstadt voice. Watch the video below of Snow and Ronstadt, enjoy, and remember the awesome talent that was Phoebe Snow.

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