Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
September 12, 2007.
Phoebe Snow can manipulate her vocal chords to achieve intense highs and
duck-for-cover lows matches only the highs and lows of her own personal wild
ride. Her voice, most well known for her 1974 hit, "Poetry Man," is nothing
short of a gift; however, that gift did not exactly come with no strings
Snow's amazing recording track record and legendary live performances – it
was her special-needs daughter, Valerie Rose, who was the absolute light of
Phoebe's life. Valerie was a mesmerizing beacon that drew Snow in and yet
kept her out of the spotlight for over thirty-one years.
Snow described her only daughter in a heart-wrenching eulogy: She was my
tireless protector and guardian, my most loyal fan, my favorite star, my
teacher, my spiritual advisor, my role model, my biggest hero, and my best
friend. She was, is, and always will be the love of my life. Let us always
celebrate her life.
sudden death, of a stroke in March 2007, took much of the bright light out
of Phoebe Snow. All these months later, she is still trying to come to terms
with her loss, and deal as best she can with the grief only a mother must
feel, not just for the loss of her child, but for her special-needs child, a
baby that was not expected to live past her first birthday.
"She was my
universe," Snow tells me on a rare good day, when she's not experiencing
eight-hour crying sessions or stomping her feet on the floor and demanding
her daughter back. "She was the nucleus of everything. I used to wonder, am
I missing something? No. I had such a sublime, transcendent experience with
my child. She had fulfilled every profound love and intimacy and desire I
could have ever dreamed of."
Valerie was born with major complications and at the height of Snow's fame,
Snow decided to dedicate the majority of her time caring for her rather than
pursuing her blossoming music career. A major life and career decision –
caring for Valerie would take up every
last ounce of her energy. What could have been an easy ride had
turned into a lifetime of frustrating struggle driven by unconditional
things she is searching for – along with spiritual answers and
truth (she is a practicing Buddhist) – is a
return to the world she left so long ago. These steps are not as easy to
take as you may think, not even for someone with nerves of steel.
what is going to save me," she says. "On the bad days, when I have to look
at the cold, hard facts of life, I see that this is not the music business I
came up in and I have to be very, very objective and detached and say,
'what's good about it and what's bad about it?' Mostly, I'm finding it good
that it's not the same old music business, because the music business I came
up in really didn't advance anything I was doing, and I don't think it was
particularly kind to a lot of artists."
grace of her voice is still there, albeit older and wiser, somewhat sadder
and much more seasoned. Yet, hold on – it still can jump, and it can still
put asses in the seats. In fact, fans still talk about the concerts she
gave eons ago, and they would easily line up for tickets again.
Of her live
performances, she says, "When you're on stage, you're almost in an altered
state of consciousness. I go in and out of a very trancy kind of state. It's
several levels of consciousness. I'm with [the audience] and then I leave
them for a while, and I'm back when I want to have a chat with them."
writing again, mostly lyrics.
"I'm not a
very disciplined songwriter," she says, "and I would do it in bursts of
activity. When I was being a mother for thirty-one years, I wasn't being a
writer. I look back at my body of work, which I am not particularly
connected to, because my daughter was so much more important to me during
all those years. I look back at it and I say 'what did I mean by that?' It's
not very precise. I did write the biggest song I ever had, and that was
before being a mother, and I was very focused. Back then it was easier for
me and back then it was all about easy. I was kind of lazy. I was not a
once you hear "Poetry Man," you don't forget it, or her.
"I wish it
would have been the fabulous aphrodisiac for me that it has been for other
people," she says of her 1974 hit. "[The success of 'Poetry Man'] was
surreal. I was a total unknown from the suburbs. It was mind-boggling. It
was almost too much for me to process. It was too much for me to understand.
I was like most little girls who grow up wanting to be in the entertainment
business. I was like, wow, that was my fantasy. It was something that I
fantasized about. It couldn't even conceptualize what it being real would
feel like. I didn't have a chance to do that, because my first album was my
biggest album, so I didn't even have a chance to practice feeling
Not a bad
lift-off for a girl from Teaneck, New Jersey, who grew up in an old stucco
house and wanted to leave it forever even when she was merely eight (she
pedaled her bike as far as Hackensack, but a kindly police officer returned
her promptly). She had foregone college to make the scene in hip and
happening New York, and her golden throat began to turn influential heads.
"Every time I put an album out, I was so imprinted with my first [successful
and I think I got really personified by that. I think, this is the way it
really happens: you put an album out, you get a hit, and you go on to
another. And I was surrounded by people who I watched it happened to, who
really blew up. I watched them go from obscurity to humongous fame."
One of those
who blew was Billy Joel, with whom she shares a story that is usually
credited to Linda Ronstadt, but it was Snow who helped Joel make a
"I met him
because we both worked with the same producer, Phil Ramone," she recalls,
"at the old A & R Studio on 48th Street. My session would end and
his would start. I met him right before The Stranger came out. He was
really well-known regionally. His label adored him, what was then CBS and
which is now Sony. Everybody knew he was going to happen. But he had a few
false starts. At the time I met him, he was recording The Stranger,
which became his blow-up album.
"He wanted to
couple of rough
for me. The first song he played was 'Movin' Out,' and then he played 'Just
The Way You Are.' I said, 'that's so beautiful,' and he said, 'You're
kidding. That's my schlock ballad. That's my throwaway song. Nothing is
going to happen with that.' And I said, 'Oh, no! That has to be your
single.' He said, 'You're crazy. That is going to be some cover song for
some cabaret lounge singer. Somebody will put it in their lounge act. That's
album filler.' And we all know what happened then."
yeah. Billy went supernova while Snow turned inward, homeward bound. Billy
played stadiums while Snow recorded a few commercial jingles (remember
"Celebrate The Moments of Your Life" for General Foods International
jingles went into such heavy, repetitive rotation," she says. "They were
easy, and they were easy money. It disciplined me to a degree. Nobody is
allergic to that money. But I really didn't do that many of them. One of my
favorites was with Nelson Riddle, in the latter years of his life. It was
for Hallmark cards; it only ran for a few weeks: 'Our Love Is Here To Stay.'
That was my idea of a really classy kind of jingle. And I did one for
Michelob: smooth and mellow."
smooth and mellow, her recent conversion from Jersey Jewish girl to chanting
Buddhist is another one of those sharp curves that life had thrown her.
She says, "If
you had told me at any time before the year 2002 that I would be chanting
for hours at a time at a Buddhist temple, and that I would travel fourteen
hours to Japan and chant day and night, I would have laughed out
in your face. But I have had a very profound and visceral experience, at a
very low point in my life. I was a sad sack. A friend called me and said,
'I'm having a Buddhist meeting in my house.' She was not an arm twister. She
was really laid back about
'And we're going to have a little pot luck afterward,' and I said, 'Oh!.'
Food was my nemesis. I wonder if it was the food that got me there, but I
got there. I had such a profound experience the first time I chanted. Don't
try to intellectualize it. Don't try to categorize it. Don't try to explain
it. Because you can't. It's beyond comprehension. That's where faith comes
in. If you have faith, you can do anything. Don't try
with and wrestles with this concept every day, as she deals with her pain
and contemplates her future. This includes taking a huge step and actually
buying a computer, as she is the actual last person on earth not to have
"Practically everyone I know now is on the internet and has a personal
computer, so yes, I feel left out. It's this gigantic club that I haven't
joined yet. Notice that I said 'yet.' I'm still a little bit baffled by all
this stuff. I'm on the fence."
side of the fence she jumps off, we'll be there to catch her and cheer her
on as she makes that move once more up the hill. Of course, Valerie's spirit
will be with her. You'll hear Valerie's influence, love and legacy in Snow's
us Let us know what you
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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
September 12, 2007.