Music Box: Happy Birthday, Phoebe Snow

The Late, Great Phoebe Snow
The Late, Great Phoebe Snow

 The idea was noble, the benefit, beyond worthwhile, the execution a little cheesy in hindsight, but back in 1995, Lincoln Center staged a concert reading of “The Wizard Of Oz In Concert: Dreams Come True” to benefit the CDF (Children’s Defense Fund), the child advocacy group whose motto of No Child Left Behind defined their great cause.

The cast included Jewel (as Dorothy), Debra Winger (The Wicked Witch of the West), Natalie Cole (Glinda The Good Witch), Nathan Lane (the Cowardly Lion), Jackson Browne (the Scarecrow), Roger Daltrey (the Tin Man), and Joel Grey as the Wizard (he also narrated, played various other parts).

Rather than an absolute faithful concert, the songs were altered – stylistically – to better suit each singer’s voice, rather than role (e.g. a Rock N Roll-ish “If I Only Had A Heart” – a la Daltrey’s classic rock front man persona).

But the single moment I fell in love with from the whole affair was the addition of the late, great Phoebe Snow. Acting as a muse, of sorts, she performed a medley of “If I Only Had a Brain; a Heart; the Nerve” – as a reprise, alone with only piano accompaniment (with lyrics in hand), and it’s the most glorious 3 minutes of the production. Her voice simultaneously bluesy, bittersweet, nostalgic and haunting, she soars while staying grounded.

The concert was never released on DVD – I transferred the Phoebe Snow medley from an old VHS recording, and converted it digitally (so excuse the shoddy quality) because as a lifelong Snow fan, I feel it deserves to be seen. And what better day than on the date she would have celebrated her 64th birthday?

So, Happy Birthday, Phoebe Snow. Your voice…your brain, your heart and your nerve…are still – and will forever be – missed.

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