“….talk to me some more, you don’t have to go, you’re the poetry man, you make things all rhyme….”
Phoebe Snow is a true original and, for me, one of the very best female vocalists of the rock era. In 1972, she was discovered by a Shelter Records A&R executive at the Bitter End on Bleecker Street in the Village. In 1975, she released her debut single Poetry Man, which was a #5 pop hit. Her eponymous debut album would earn her the Grammy for Best New Artist.
A singer’s singer, Phoebe’s incredibly versatile and nimble voice seemed completely organic whether she was singing folk, blues, standards or R&B. In fact, people have always assumed she was black, but she was just a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey with curly hair and a soulful sound.
In the mid-seventies, Phoebe gave birth to a severely handicapped daughter. Bravely, Phoebe chose care for Valerie herself and raise her as a single mom. The resulting pressure informed her choices and affected her musical output, sometimes even keeping her out of the studio for years at a time. Tragically, her daughter died in 2007. Subsequently, Phoebe returned to her career with a renewed vigor and much greater visibility.
I found out just yesterday that Phoebe suffered a severe brain hemorrhage back in January. She is only 58. (Incidentally, where was the press on this? I mean, I sit in front of the computer all day and just found out?) Anyway, I feel terrible, so I wanted to blog about it. I knew Phoebe through my friend Ruby Marchand when I worked at Warner Music in the late 1980s and, during my years with Denise Rich, I would see Phoebe out and about with some frequency. In addition to that enormous talent, she is a heymish lady, which is Yiddish and basically means she’s someone you’d like to have lunch with. (I just reread this. I’m turning into Cindy Adams). I spoke to her manager yesterday who told me what I already knew, that “Phoebe is a fighter.” It is heart breaking that some people can’t seem to catch a break.
Keep Phoebe in your thoughts and, as you do, enjoy one of my favorite early-Phoebe musical moments. Its Phoebe and her friend, the incredible Linda Ronstadt, both at the peak of their powers, with a ferocious take on The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss) from a 1979 episode of SNL. (Note Linda’s fierce ensemble, which could be worn exactly the same way today). A speedy recovery to Phoebe Snow!