Come on, come on and surry on down to the life and music of Laura Nyro. There'll be trains of blossoms and poverty trains, broken thunders and broken rainbows, sassafras and moonshine where sweet dreams never fade and love is surely gospel and, most of all, there'll be music created by one of the most inventive songwriters and passionate voices of the 20th century.
December's Boudoir celebrates Laura through interviews, rare concert and personal footage, animation and the remembrances of eloquent and devoted fans. Laura was an important voice of the late 1960s and early 1970s but many people only heard that voice second hand through other artists and, tragically, very few young people today are familiar with her music. In what seems like a blink she was gone at age 49. December's Boudoir aims to bring Laura back up to the surface so she may soar again for a new generation.
This new generation will discover a teenager who broke all the rules as needed to express herself, a songwriting prodigy who wrote "And When I Die," "Wedding Bell Blues," "Eli's Comin'," "Blowin' Away," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Stoney End," "Sweet Blindness" and "Time and Love" all before she was 20 years old. A week after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, 20-year-old Laura expressed the will and wail of the nation by writing and recording "Save the Country." "Songwriting is like flying," she said. "In songwriting, I know no limitations." And she made good on that with an out-of-nowhere fusion of diverse musical styles, poetic lyrics and intriguing song structures that won the admiration of Leonard Bernstein, Miles Davis and Bob Dylan. A 2012 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she was cited as an important influence by Joni Mitchell, Melissa Manchester, Rickie Lee Jones, Todd Rundgren and Elton John.
Viewers unfamiliar with Laura will find a beautiful subverter of categories, labels and conventional expectations, a role model for young artists, especially young women seeking to control their music and careers. Laura placed artistic integrity and social responsibility above fame but would also use that fame to help others, whether it was dedicating her 1988 tour to the animal rights movement or penning the title song to the 1986 Academy Award-winning documentary Broken Rainbow, about the forced relocation of the Navajo people from their lands. Laura was asked to write a song for Broken Rainbow on a Monday, and by Friday -- although never having seen a frame of footage from the film -- she was singing and playing the finished composition over the phone for Maria.
December's Boudoir shows the Bronx Madonna as eclectic personally as she was musically: gentle but fierce, social but very private, a pure innocent who also possessed great worldly knowledge and sensuality. She wrote with a visual artist's eye and the highest and hardest goal she set for herself was to "live a life with art in it." The spirit that animated her tried to break through in every direction: vocally, emotionally, personally, politically, artistically. Call it passion, jumping off a cliff or the fury in her soul, Laura always goes there and she takes millions of adoring fans with her.