In my high school class those of us who followed pop music obsessively knew we had discovered someone special in Laura Nyro. We prided ourselves in being able to recognize her hand in the covers of her songs on the radio. We were blown away by Eli and The Thirteenth Confession when it was released in 1968, and it’s still sounding good after all these years. We thought that, along with Jimmy Webb, she was a songwriter with something special to say. We were crazy about her.
Having influenced a lot of singers and songwriters along the way, Laura died way too young in 1997. The folks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally got around to giving Laura some long overdue recognition with her induction last year. They even found a performer (Sara Bareilles) to channel Laura’s singing voice in a lovely performance of “Stoney End.” HBO rebroadcast the ceremony this past weekend.
At the end of her life Laura recorded a set of songs released posthumously on Angel in the Dark. Among the covers on the collection was “La-La (Means I Love You),” written by William Hart and Thom Bell. “La-La” is a throwback to what Laura called the “teenage primal heartbeat songs” of her youth. “That music is about real singing,” she said in the liner notes to one of her albums. “There’s a passion for melody, for phrasing.” She recorded an album full of such songs on Gonna Take a Miracle, accompanied by the ladies of LaBelle and produced by latter day Philadelphia soul maestros Gamble and Huff. Someone who loves Laura put together the video below with her version of “La-La (Means I Love You).”