Desert Island Discs: “Phoebe Snow” (1974)Posted: August 31, 2011
Some works of art encapsulate and sum up a place and time in your life. Most of mine are record albums. This is one: Phoebe Snow’s eponymous first album from 1974.
I’d just left my parents’ home, was living at college, being independent which translated into spending way too much time at the campus radio station. “Poetry Man” was a minor hit at the time, probably due to its Joni Mitchell vibe, so I delved into the LP.
Each song hit me on the head, tapped into something. As much due to the music as to the lyrics.
I strut and fret my hour upon the stage
The hour is up
I have to run and hide my rage
I’m lost again
I think I’m really scared
I won’t be back at all this time
And have my deepest secrets shared
I’d like to be a willow
A lover, a mountain, or a soft refrain
But I’d hate to be a grown-up
And have to try to bear my life in pain
– “Harpo’s Blues”
What I want to know from you
When you hear my plea –
Do you like or love
Either or both of me?
– “Either Or Both”
Snow was briefly married to musician Phil Kearns and in 1975 gave birth to a severely mentally impaired daughter, Valerie Rose. She resolved not to institutionalize Valerie, and cared for her at home until Valerie died in 2007 at the age of 31. Snow’s efforts to care for Valerie nearly ended her career, however.
Forget about 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.
When 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 love.
Snow suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and slipped into a coma in early 2010. Prior to her stroke she had planned to release a new album, and was scheduled to tour with her band in March. Snow died on April 26th, 2011 at age 60 near her childhood home in Teaneck, New Jersey.
If this album were the only one she ever released, though, it would be enough to make Phoebe Snow a singer-songwriter for the ages.