Phoebe Snow

This article is about the singer/songwriter. For other uses, see Phoebe Snow (disambiguation).
Phoebe Snow
Background information
Birth name Phoebe Ann Laub
Born (1950-07-17)July 17, 1950[1][2]
New York City, U.S.[1]
Died April 26, 2011(2011-04-26) (aged 60)[1]
Edison, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Folk, blues, gospel, jazz, pop, rock, rock and roll, soft rock, soul, adult contemporary
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1972–2010
Labels Shelter, Columbia, Atlantic, Eagle, House Of Blues
Associated acts Sisters of Glory

Phoebe Snow (born Phoebe Ann Laub; July 17, 1950[1][2]  April 26, 2011[1]) was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist, best known for her 1975 song "Poetry Man". She was described by The New York Times as a "contralto grounded in a bluesy growl and capable of sweeping over four octaves."[3]

Personal life

She was born in New York City in 1950,[1] and raised in a musical household in which Delta blues, Broadway show tunes, Dixieland jazz, classical music, and folk music recordings were played around the clock. Her father, Merrill Laub, 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 dance teacher who had performed with the Martha Graham group.[4]

Snow grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, and graduated from Teaneck High School in 1968.[5] She subsequently attended Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Illinois, but did not graduate.[6] As a student, she carried her prized Martin 000-18 acoustic guitar from club to club in Greenwich Village, playing and singing on amateur nights. Her stage name came from a fictional advertising character created in the early 1900s for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, in which Phoebe Snow was a young woman dressed all in white, emphasizing the cleanliness of Lackawanna passenger trains whose locomotives burned anthracite coal.[7]

Between 1975 and 1978 Snow was married to Phil Kearns (who later came out as gay),[8] and on December 10, 1975, her daughter, Valerie Rose, was born with severe brain damage.[9] 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.[10] She continued to take voice lessons, and she studied opera informally.[10]

Snow was described "as Jewish as a knish", although many of her fans had thought she might be African-American. In her later years she embraced Buddhism.[11]

Professional life

It was at The Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell, co-owner (with Leon Russell) 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 over a million copies in the United States and became one of the most acclaimed recordings of the era.

This 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.[12] The cover of Rolling Stone magazine followed, while she performed as the opening act for tours by Jackson Browne and Paul Simon (with whom she recorded the hit single "Gone at Last" in 1975). 1975 also brought the first of several appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on which Snow performed both solo and in duets with Paul Simon and Linda Ronstadt. During the 1975 appearance, she was seven months pregnant with her daughter, Valerie. Her backup vocal is heard on Paul Simon's hit song "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" along with Valerie Simpson and Patti Austin, from 1975. She also duets with him on the song gospel-tinged "Gone At Last". Both songs appear on Simon's Grammy-winning 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years.

Legal battles took place between Snow and Shelter Records. Snow ended up signed to Columbia Records. Her second album, Second Childhood, appeared in 1976, produced by Phil Ramone. It was jazzier and more introspective, and was an RIAA Certified Gold Album for Phoebe, with the Gold Album awarded on July 9, 1976.[13] She moved to a more rock-oriented sound for It Looks Like Snow, released later in 1976 with David Rubinson producing. 1977 saw Never Letting Go, again with Ramone, while 1978's Against the Grain was helmed by Barry Beckett. 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 U.S. and Canada with noted guitarist Arlen Roth as her lead guitarist and musical director. Her January 1979 cover of the Paul McCartney song "Every Night" reached #37 in the UK.[14] In 1981, Snow, now signed with Mirage Records, released Rock Away, recorded with members of Billy Joel's band; it spun off the Top 50 hit "Games".

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 for AT&T and others in order to support herself and her daughter.[15] Later, in the 1990s, Snow's voice was featured on commercials for Cotton Incorporated and their The Fabric of Our Lives campaign. During the 1980s she also battled her own life-threatening illness. [15] Snow sang the theme song for NBC's A Different World during the show's first season (1987–88).

In 1988, a duet with Dave Mason, called "Dreams I Dream" reached #11 on the US adult contemporary charts. Snow returned to recording with Something Real in 1989 and gathered a few more hits on the Adult Contemporary charts. Also, Snow composed the Detroit's WDIV-TV Go 4 It! campaign in 1980. She sang Ancient Places, Sacred Lands composed by Steve Horelick on Reading Rainbow's tenth episode The Gift of the Sacred Dog which was based on the book by Paul Goble and narrated by actor Michael Ansara. It was shot in Crow Agency, Montana in 1983.

Snow performed in 1989 on stage at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City as part of Our Common Future, a five-hour live television broadcast originating from several countries.[16]

In 1990, she contributed a cover version of the Delaney & Bonnie song "Get Ourselves Together" to the Elektra compilation Rubáiyát which included Earth Wind & Fire guitarist Dick Smith. In 1992, she toured with Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue and was featured on the group's album recorded live at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Throughout the 1990s she made numerous appearances on the Howard Stern radio show. She 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.[17]

In 1995, Snow 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". In addition, the concert featured performances by Jewel, Joel Grey, Roger Daltrey, and Jackson Browne among others. An album of the concert was released on Compact Disc on Rhino Records as catalog number R2 72405.

Snow joined with the pop group, Zap Mama, who recorded its own version of "Poetry Man", in an impromptu duet on the PBS series, "Sessions At West 54th." Hawaiian girl group Na Leo also had a hit on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1999 with their cover version of "Poetry Man".

In May 1998, Snow received the Cultural Achievement Award by 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 U.S. President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, and his cabinet at Camp David in 1999.

In 2003, Snow released her album Natural Wonder on Eagle Records, containing ten original tracks, her first original material in fourteen 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. Some of her music was also featured on the soundtrack of the film. Her Live album (2008) featured many of her hits as well as a cover of "Piece of My Heart".


Phoebe Snow suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on January 19, 2010 and slipped into a coma,[18] enduring bouts of blood clots, pneumonia and congestive heart failure. Snow died on April 26, 2011 at age 60 in Edison, New Jersey.[19]


This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.




With other artists

• "People Get Ready" ("Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends", album 2012)   with Ladysmith Black Mambazo

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Thursby, Keith (April 27, 2011). "Phoebe Snow dies at 60; singer of 1974 hit 'Poetry Man'. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  2. 1 2 Matt Schudel (April 27, 2011). "Phoebe Snow, powerful singer of 1970s hit ‘Poetry Man,’ dies at 60". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  3. Abdella, Fred T. (July 2, 1989). "Singing Her Way Back to the Top". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011. It was the summer of 1974 and the voice was everywhere - a contralto grounded in a bluesy growl and capable of sweeping over four octaves on the slightest provocation into a gospel-charged upper range.
  4. "The Blues of Phoebe Snow" by Don Shewey
  5. Nash, Margo (June 22, 2003). "Still Singing, Still a Fan Of Trains", The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2007. "Her first record, Phoebe Snow (Shelter 1974), with the single "Poetry Man", went gold, and Snow, who had been discovered performing in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse, shortly after graduating from Teaneck High School, found herself a sudden success."
  6. "Named for a Train, Phoebe Snow Is on the Right Track". People. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  7. Kadden, Jack (April 10, 2005). "On a Train Back To a Golden Age". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011. The other two are tavern-lounge cars built in 1949 for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad's premiere train, the Phoebe Snow, which ran from Hoboken, N.J., to Buffalo. The name came from a characterdressed all in whitein an advertising campaign dating to the early 1900s, touting a train that ran on clean-burning anthracite coal. (The singer Phoebe Snow, born Phoebe Laub, took her stage name from the train.)
  8. O'Donnell, Lisa (2011-09-12). "Ex-husband of Phoebe Snow leads a musical life out of the closet in Winston-Salem". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
  9. Holden, Stephen (October 21, 1983). "Things Are Looking Up Again For Phoebe Snow". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  10. 1 2 Friedman, Roger. "Saying goodbye to Valerie"., Fox News Channel, March 22, 2007. Retrieved August 23, 2008. Substory of "Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Likely Guests at Cannes".
  11. Jewish Journal, May 2011; "Remembering my friend, Phoebe Snow"
  12. "Phoebe Snow, 'Poetry Man' Singer, Dies", Billboard, April 26, 2011.
  13. "Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  14. 1 2 Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 511. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  15. 1 2 "Music: Throwing In the Crying Towel". Time. May 1, 1989.
  16. Pareles, Jon (June 5, 1989). "Review/Television; The Pop World Wrestles With 'Our Common Future'". The New York Times.
  17. "Roseanne: Episode 221 & 222 – Into That Good Night (part one & two). Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  18. "Phoebe Snow, the Greatest Voice of Her Generation, Dies at 60". Showbiz411. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  19. Holden, Stephen (April 26, 2011). "Phoebe Snow, Bluesy Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 60". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2011. Phoebe Snow, whose signature hit, "Poetry Man", established her as a leading light of the singer-songwriter movement and whose swooping vocal acrobatics transcended musical genres, died on Tuesday in Edison, N.J. She was 60.
    Her death, at a hospital in Edison, was caused by complications of a stroke she suffered in January 2010, her manager, Sue Cameron, said. Some sources give Ms. Snow's age as 58, though New Jersey voter records say she was born on July 17, 1950.
  20. Whitburn, Joel (October 5, 2010). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Publications. ISBN 978-0823085545.
  21. Hyatt, Wesley (June 1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits. Billboard Publications. ISBN 978-0823076932.
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