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Mon, 07.17.1950

Phoebe Snow born

Phoebe Snow

*Phoebe Snow was born on this date in 1950.  She was a Black singer-songwriter and guitarist. 

Born Phoebe Ann Laub in New York City, she was raised in a musical household.  At home, Delta blues, Broadway show tunes, Dixieland jazz, classical music, and folk music recordings were played around the clock. Her father, Merrill Laub was Black, an exterminator by trade, had an encyclopedic knowledge of American film and theater and was also an avid collector and restorer of antiques. Her mother, Lili Laub, was a white-Jewish dance teacher who had performed with the Martha Graham group.  

Snow was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, and graduated from Teaneck High School in 1968. She subsequently attended Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Illinois, but did not graduate. While a student, she carried her Martin 000-18 acoustic guitar from club to club in Greenwich Village, playing and singing on amateur nights. Her stage name came from an early 1900s fictional advertising character used by Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. In the railroad's print ads, a young woman dressed all in white emphasized the cleanliness of Lackawanna passenger trains. (Its locomotives burned anthracite coal, which created less soot than bituminous coal.).

It was at The Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell of Shelter Records, was so taken by the singer that he signed her to the label and produced her first recording.  She released an eponymous album, Phoebe Snow, in 1974. Featuring guest performances by The Persuasions, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson, David Bromberg, and Dave Mason, Snow's album went on to sell more than a million copies in the United States and became one of the most acclaimed recordings that year.  The album spawned a Top Five 1975 single on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Poetry Man" and was itself a Top Five album in Billboard, for which she received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The cover of Rolling Stone magazine followed, while she performed as the opening act for tours by Jackson Browne and Paul Simon.  

1975, brought the first of several appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on which Snow performed both solo and in duets with Simon and Linda Ronstadt. During the 1975 appearance, she was seven months pregnant with her daughter, Valerie.  Legal battles took place between Snow and Shelter Records. Snow ended up signed to Columbia Records. Her second album, Second Childhood, appeared in 1976. It was jazzier and more introspective, and was an RIAA Certified Gold Album for Snow, with the Gold Album awarded on July 9, 1976. She moved to a more rock-oriented sound for It Looks Like Snow, released later in 1976. 1977 saw Never Letting Go, followed by 1978's Against the Grain.  

After that, Snow parted ways with Columbia; she would later say that the stress of her parental obligations degraded her ability to make music effectively. In 1979, she toured extensively throughout the US and Canada.  In 1981, Snow, then signed with Mirage Records, released Rock Away.  The 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide summed up Snow's career so far by saying: "One of the most gifted voices of her generation, Phoebe Snow can do just about anything stylistically as well as technically.… The question that's still unanswered is how best to channel such talent." 

Snow spent long periods away from recording, often singing commercial jingles in order to support herself and her daughter.  During the 1980s, she also battled her own life-threatening illness.  Snow recorded the theme song for the first season of the TV series 9 to 5 and for A Different World.  Snow returned to recording with Something Real in 1989 and gathered a few more hits on the Adult Contemporary charts.  That same year, Snow performed at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City as part of Our Common Future, a five-hour live television broadcast originating from several countries.  Throughout the 1990s, she made numerous appearances on the Howard Stern radio show and sang live for specials and birthday shows. In 1997, she sang the Roseanne theme song a cappella during the closing moments of the final episode.  

In 1995, she participated in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True at the Lincoln Center in New York City, singing a distinctive medley of "If I Only Had a Brain; a Heart; the Nerve".  Snow joined with the pop group Zap Mama, who recorded its own version of Snow's "Poetry Man" in an impromptu duet on the PBS series Sessions at West 54th.  In 1998, Snow received the Cultural Achievement Award from New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. She was also the recipient of a Don Kirshner Rock Award, several Playboy Music Poll Awards, New York Music Awards, and the Clio Award.  Snow performed for US President Clinton, the first lady and his cabinet at Camp David in 1999. In 2003, Snow released her album Natural Wonder her first original material in 14 years.

Snow performed at Howard Stern's wedding in 2008 and made a special appearance in the film Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom as herself.  Between 1975 and 1978 Snow was married to Phil Kearns.  She had a daughter, Valerie Rose, who was born with severe brain damage.  Snow resolved not to institutionalize Valerie, and cared for her at home until Valerie died on March 19, 2007, at the age of 31. Snow's efforts to care for Valerie nearly ended her career.  She continued to take voice lessons, and she studied opera informally.  She lived in Bergen County, New Jersey, and in her later years she embraced Buddhism.  Phoebe Snow suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on January 19, 2010, and slipped into a coma, enduring bouts of blood clots, pneumonia and congestive heart failure. Phoebe Snow died on April 26, 2011, at age 60 in Edison, New Jersey.  

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