Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Laura Nyro

Stoney End

Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro (1966).
Also recorded by The Blossoms (B-side 1967 |A-side 1969), The Stone Poneys (1968), Peggy Lipton (US #121 1968).
Hit version by Barbra Streisand (US #6/MOR #2/CAN #5/UK #27 1971).

From the wiki: “Laura Nyro (1947–1997) was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist. She achieved critical acclaim with her own recordings, particularly the albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969), and had commercial success with artists such as Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension recording her songs.

“Nyro’s style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes, rock, and soul. As a child, she taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother’s records by Leontyne Price, Billie Holiday and classical composers such as Ravel and Debussy. She composed her first songs at age eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskill Mountains, where her father played the trumpet at resorts.

“‘Stoney End’ was first recorded by Nyro in 1966 and released in 1967 on the Verve/Folkway album More Than a New Discovery (later reissued as Laura Nyro, 1969, and as The First Songs, 1973). For the single version of ‘Stoney End,’ Nyro was forced to rework some of the lyrics that referred to the Bible, because Verve felt it would cause too much controversy.

Sweet Blindness

Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro (1968).
Hit version by The 5th Dimension (US #13/R&B #45/CAN #15 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Sweet Blindness’ was written by Laura Nyro (‘Stoney End‘, ‘Eli’s Comin’‘, ‘And When I Die‘) and first recorded by her for the 1968 album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. (At Nyro’s insistence, the album’s lyric sheet – which itself was a rarity for records in 1968 – was perfumed, and fans have reported that it still has a pleasant aroma.) When she’d sing ‘Sweet Blindness’ in concert, Nyro would introduce the song as ‘A little drinking song I wrote.’

“‘Sweet Blindness’ was another one of several Nyro songs that The 5th Dimension covered and took into the Top 40, also including ‘Wedding Bell Blues‘, ‘Stoned Soul Picnic‘, and ‘Save the Country‘.”

Wedding Bell Blues

Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro (US #103 1966).
Also recorded by Lesley Gore (1969).
Hit version by The 5th Dimension (US #1/R&B #23/UK #16/CAN #3 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Wedding Bell Blues’ is a song written and recorded by Laura Nyro in 1966 that became a #1 hit for The 5th Dimension in 1969 and, subsequently, a popular phrase in American culture. The song carries dual themes of adoring love and frustrated lament. Nyro wrote ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ at the age of 18 as a ‘mini-suite’, featuring several dramatic rhythmic changes, was to be recorded in 1966 as part of what would become her More Than a New Discovery album.

“However, producer Herb Bernstein did not allow Nyro to record this version, which led to Nyro more or less disowning the entire album. What was recorded was fairly similar in content and arrangement to the later, much more familiar, 5th Dimension version, albeit with a somewhat more soulful vocal line. It was released as a single in September 1966 and remained on the Billboard Pop Singles ‘Bubbling Under’ charts segment for several weeks.

Save the Country

Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro (1968).
Also recorded by The Magnificent Men (1969), Brian Auger & The Trinity (1969), Thelma Houston (1970).
Hit version by The 5th Dimension (US #27/MOR #10/CAN #24/AUS #79 1970).

From the wiki: “Laura Nyro wrote ‘Save the Country’ as her reaction to Robert Kennedy’s assassination in June, 1968, and recorded the original version of the song with just a piano accompaniment. It was released as a single in 1968 and did not chart, but would later be included on Nyro’s 1969 album New York Tendaberry, her most commercially-successful album. (‘Time and Love’ from the album would also see commercial release as a single in 1970, by Barbra Streisand.)

And When I Die

First released by Peter, Paul & Mary (1966).
Also recorded by Laura Nyro (demo 1966 |1967).
Hit version by Blood, Sweat & Tears (US #2/NZ #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘And When I Die’ was written by Laura Nyro and first recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966 after listening to Nyro’s rough demo. The song was one of the first written by Nyro, when she was 17 years old. She then sold the song to Peter, Paul and Mary for $5000, who then recorded the song for their sixth studio album The Peter, Paul and Mary Album.

“Nyro would later produce a studio recording of ‘And When I Die’ for her own 1967 debut album More Than a New Discovery. However, the song is probably best known for the recording by Blood, Sweat & Tears. Their 1969 single release reached #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Up on the Roof

First recorded by Little Eva (1962).
Hit versions by The Drifters (US #5/R&B #4 1963), Kenny Lynch (UK #10 1962), Julie Grant (UK #33 1963), Laura Nyro (US #92 1970), James Taylor (US #28 1980), Robson & Jerome (UK #1 1995).
Also recorded by Carole King (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Up on the Roof’ is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, first recorded in 1962 by Little Eva. The song was also recorded by The Drifters and released late that year, becoming a major hit in early 1963 (reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the US R&B Singles chart).

“In the UK the Drifters’ version of ‘Up on the Roof’ failed to reach the Top 50, being trumped by two local cover versions, sung by, respectively, Julie Grant and Kenny Lynch (‘Mountain of Love‘). The Kenny Lynch version, which largely replicated the Drifters’ original, was the more successful, reaching #10 UK. The Julie Grant version, which reached #33 UK, was reinvented as a Merseybeat number. Its producer, Tony Hatch, would later be inspired to write Petula Clark’s iconic hit ‘Downtown’, which was originally envisioned as being in the style of The Drifters, with whom Hatch had hoped to place it.

Stoned Soul Picnic

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Laura Nyro (1968).
Also recorded by Laura Nyro (1968).
Hit version by The 5th Dimension (US #3/R&B #2 1968).

From the wiki: “Bones Howe, who had engineered the first 5th Dimension hit, ‘Up-Up and Away,’ became the group’s producer and introduced them to this song and to the music of Laura Nyro. After ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’ also became a hit, the group recorded several other Nyro songs (including ‘Sweet Blindness‘, and ‘Save The Country‘) with great success.

It’s Gonna Take a Miracle

Originally recorded by The Royalettes (US #41/R&B #28 1965).
Other hit version by Deniece Williams (US #10/R&B #1 1982).
Also recorded by Laura Nyro & LaBelle (1971).

From the wiki: ‘It’s Gonna Take a Miracle’ is a popular song written by Teddy Randazzo (‘Goin’ Out of My Head’, ‘Hurts So Bad’), Bob Weinstein, and Lou Stallman. It was first an R&B hit in 1965 for The Royalettes, who peaked at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart but reached the R&B Top-30. In 1971, Laura Nyro recorded the song for her album, Gonna Take a Miracle, with background vocals performed by LaBelle.

“The most successful version of the song was the 1982 remake by R&B and gospel artist Deniece Williams. Her version went to #1 on the R&B chart for two weeks and also peaked at #10 on the Hot 100.”

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