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July 19, 2002 - Image 83

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-07-19

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r

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I

of a marriage between Louis
Nigro, a half Russian-Jewish,
half-Irish Catholic trumpet
player who often played the
Catskills, and Gilda Mirsky,
his Russian Jewishbride, the
granddaughter of a cantor.
According to Kort, the cou-
ple's two children, first-born
Laura and son Jan, did not
grow up in a home where
Jewish values were stressed.
"They really didn't have
much of a religious upbring-
ing; neither did their parents'
families," Kort says. "Both
parents were more involved
in workers' rights and things
like that. That was more of
their religion.
"The most spiritual education Laura
had was going to the Manhattan Ethical
Culture School, which slanted toward
Unitarianism on the Jewish side."
Described as a "spiritual atheist" and
a "totally free spirit," Nyro threaded
her music with a subtle and sensuous
lust for life.
In retrospect, a cult following of les-
bian listeners was the first to detect
Nyro's fanciful and delicately woven
woman-to-woman overtures, as early as
her second album, Eli and the
Thirteenth Confession, which was
released in 1968.
Whatever Nyro's intentions at sexual
vagueness, her passionate search for
love outwardly tended to target male
companionship.
There was Jim Felder, the Jewish
bass player in Blood, Sweat and Tears,
who almost saw Nyro recruited as the
band's replacement singer for depart-
ing founder Al Kooper.
The jazz-rock group eventually hired
vocalist David Clayton Thomas.
And although Nyro did marry David
Bianchini, a decorated Vietnam veteran,
in 1971, the mismatched union of the
two Bohemian souls ended in 1977.
Their divorce dovetailed with another
heartbreaking relationship Nyro had
before she struck up a casual affair with a
Hindu friend of her brother's, Harindra
Singh, who was 10 years her senior.
Nyro became pregnant, and whisked
Singh from her life, before giving birth
to a son named Gillian, Whom she
called "Gil" and named after her late
mother, Gilda.
Reportedly, Singh returned to India
and has never met his son.

Womensong

In the mid-'80s, Nyro met Maria
Antonia Desiderio, who was gay and

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Nyro's legacy is a
fertile crop of
music that is
blooming once
again with a fresh
arrival of newly
remastered CDs.

co--owner of a women's bookstore in
Newport Beach, Calif. And until Nyro's
death on April 8, 1997, the singer rhap-
sodized her life with Desiderio, without
publicly disclosing her liberated lifestyle.
"It's me and my son and my dog.
And then we have others whom we
love and who participate in our lives,"
Nyro once said, discreetly ducking a
direct question about her domestic
status in the Los Angeles Times.
Kort's biography includes a vast
amount of inside information about
Nyro's treatment within the music
industry and her recordings.
And for enhanced listening pleasure,
it nicely coincides with three upgraded,
expanded and newly remastered CDs
by Nyro on Columbia/Legacy: Eli and
the Thirteenth Confession (1968), New
York Tendaberry (1969) and Gonna
Take a Miracle (1971). The latter CD
features Nyro and Patti LaBelle per-
forming doo-wop and Motown clas-
sics, along with four bonus tracks.
Rounder Records additionally offers
a new double-CD set, Laura Nyro
Live: The Loom's Desire, containing
two previously unreleased 1993 and
1994 concerts that Nyro performed at
the Bottom Line in New York.
Some selections present the only
staged renditions of Nyro's last-written
compositions and studio recordings,
previously collected and issued on a
companion CD titled Angel in the Dark.
Calling Nyro "a natural diva who was
mystical and magical," Kort suggests
the new releases hopefully will broaden
the singer's legacy for rediscovery, re-
examination and reassessment.
"It's all about influence, and some of
today's female vocalists have no idea they
exist because of Laura Nyro," Kort says.
"Her history hasn't been passed
down, so they just don't know there's a
historic blank spot of the impact she
set in motion." ❑

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