'Poetry Man' singer was 60
Vocalist Phoebe Snow, who seamlessly melded pop, folk and jazz in her signature 1975 hit “Poetry Man,” died April 26 in Edison, N.J. She was 60.
Snow had been in failing health after suffering a stroke in January 2010.
Snow made an immediate national impression when “Poetry Man” reached No. 5 and dominated pop radio, scoring her a nomination for the best new artist Grammy. But a follow-up proved elusive, as the singer devoted much of her time and energy over the years to caring for her daughter Valerie, born with serious brain damage in 1975.
Born Phoebe Ann Laub in New York and raised in Teaneck, NJ, Snow developed her unique style gigging in New York’s Greenwich Village clubs. She was signed to Shelter Records by executive and producer Denny Cordell, who helmed her self-titled 1974 debut.
Sparked by “Poetry Man,” the album remained on the national charts for more than a year, and Snow opened high-profile tours with Jackson Browne (reputed by some to be the subject of “Poetry Man”) and Paul Simon.
Snow’s daughter was born after her brief marriage to Phil Kearns dissolved, and the singer decided to care for her severely disabled daughter herself, rather than institutionalize her. She would do so until Valerie’s death in 2007.
After a falling-out with Shelter, Snow moved to Columbia Records; her four albums for the label all reached the top 100, but none came close to matching her bow’s success. She appeared on label mate Simon’s 1975 hit “Gone at Last.”
Snow went on to record adult-oriented titles for labels like Mirage and Elektra.
Through the ’90s, she maintained her profile via a tour with the Rock and Soul Revue, an ad hoc R&B unit led by Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, and frequent appearances on Howard Stern’s syndicated radio show. She performed for President Bill Clinton at Camp David in 1999.
Snow’s final studio album “Natural Wonder,” her first in 14 years, was released in 2003. By then, she had also become a familiar jingle singer: Her unmistakable voice was heard in campaigns for Michelob, General Foods, Hallmark and AT&T. She also recorded the theme for the NBC soap “A Different World.” (Christopher Morris)