As a pre-teen gay boy, I was entrenched in my own world. At 10 or 11 years old, I had one of those little portable transistor radios (the ones with the plastic strap to hang from your wrist or bicycle bars) that I slept with under my pillow, where I can escape a confused, but exciting, new realization. Even at that young age, I would always listen to talk radio or all news stations (as I rarely could sleep to music). But one evening, for whatever reason I can’t even fathom to remember (perhaps musical divine intervention?), I listened to WABC (AM radio ruled in the 1970s) while in my bed on the floor, and “Poetry Man” came wafting through my dreamscape in the middle of the night. I was immediately transfixed at the sound of this woman’s voice which had awoken me from my deep slumber…and it’s otherworldly hold on me. Both the PHOEBE SNOW album and “Poetry Man” are entities that have haunted me since, by a singer, woman and mother I’ve grown to admire even more as the years progressed (including a deeper appreciation for her as a comedic entity with her many appearances in the 1980s and 1990s on Howard Stern’s radio show. Such a good friend – and fan – was Stern that he asked Snow to sing at his wedding to his wife, Beth, in 2008.)
Snow sorta “quit” music only a few years following her immediate success after the birth of her daughter, Valerie (who was born in 1975 severely brain damaged) knowing a full-fledged career as pop star would mean abandoning a child with hardcore special needs. She continued to make albums, but since Snow refused to institutionalize her daughter and cared for Valerie at home, she became one of the most sought after commercial jingle singers, which paid well, and helped the financial woes that come when caring for a handicapped youngster, and allowed her never to be away from her precious child. Valerie passed away in March of 2007 at the age of 31.
Back in the late 1990s, I worked the weekend overnight reception desk of the now-defunct Sony Music Studios on West 54th st. I was listening to Phoebe Snow’s self-titled 1974 debut CD when I glanced down at the schedule for the weekend and saw that she had a session that evening (I believe it was a mastering session). I was thrilled to finally be able to tell her, however succinctly, what her music and voice has meant to me now, and as that scared 10 year old gay boy from Brooklyn. She was honored and moved at my story, and we spoke briefly every time she came into the studio. I’m not one of those silly fans who ask for autographs, but now – over a decade later – I wish I had her sign the CD that I was listening to. Snow passed away on April 26th. (You can read her obituary HERE)
R.I.P Phoebe…your miraculous voice will be forever missed.
Here’s Phoebe singing Mahalia Jackson’s “Moving Up A Little Higher” during a televised Earth Day Weekend back in April of 1990…