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Phoebe Snow

Full name

Phoebe Snow

Alternative names

Phoebe Ann Laub

Presence on Earth



Mount Carroll period alum

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 chart-topping 1975 hit "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 lifeEdit

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.[5] She subsequently attended Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Illinois, but did not graduate.[6]

As a student, she carried her prized Martin 00018 acoustic guitar from club to club in Greenwich Village, playing and singing on amateur nights. Her stage name is a fictional advertising character created in the early 1900s for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad: Phoebe Snow was a young woman who appeared dressed all in white. Also, a DL&W passenger train called the Phoebe Snow ran from Hoboken to Buffalo between 1949-1960.[7]

Snow was briefly married to Phil Kearns, and in December 1975 she gave birth to a severely mentally impaired daughter, Valerie Rose.[8] Snow resolved not to institutionalize Valerie, and cared for her at home until Valerie died on March 18, 2007 at the age of 31. Snow's efforts to care for Valerie nearly ended her career.[9] She continued to take voice lessons, and she studied opera informally.[9]

Professional lifeEdit

It was at The Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell, a promotions executive for 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 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, and established her as a singer/songwriter. 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 suffered disappointing sales. She moved to a harder sound Template:Clarify 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 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 would spend long periods away from recording, often singing commercial jingles for AT&T and others in order to support herself and her daughter.[10] During the 1980s she also battled her own life-threatening illness. Template:Clarify[10]

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.[11]

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.

Snow joined 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 Kirschner Rock Award, several Playboy Music Poll Awards, New York Music Awards and the Clio Award.

She 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,[12] enduring bouts of blood clots, pneumonia, and congestive heart failure. Snow died on April 26, 2011 at age 60 in Edison, New Jersey.[13]


Template:Expand list







  • 1982: The Best of Phoebe Snow
  • 1995: P.S.


  • 2001: The Very Best of Phoebe Snow




  • "Poetry Man" b/wTemplate:Clarify "Easy Street" (non-album track included as a bonus on CD) (January 1975) – U.S. #5 Pop / #1 adult contemporary
  • "Harpo's Blues" (May 1975) – U.S. #20 adult contemporary
  • "Gone at Last" (August 1975) (with Paul Simon and Jessy Dixon Singers) – U.S. #23 Pop / #9 adult contemporary
  • "Shakey Ground" (January 1977) – U.S. #70 pop
  • "Every Night" (January 1979) – UK #37[14]
  • "Games" (February 1981) – U.S. #46 pop


  • "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (May 1981) – U.S. #52 pop
  • "Dreams I Dream" (with Dave Mason) (January 1988) – U.S. #11 adult contemporary
  • "Three Little Birds" duet with Gregory Abbott (2003) – pop Caribbean
  • "If I Can Just Get Through the Night" (April 1989) — U.S. #13 adult contemporary
  • "Something Real" (July 1989) — U.S. #29 adult contemporary


With other artistsEdit

See alsoEdit

Template:Portal box


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Thursby, Keith (April 27, 2011). "Phoebe Snow dies at 60; singer of 1974 hit 'Poetry Man'. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  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.,,20066289,00.html. 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 character -- dressed all in white -- in an advertising campaign dating to the early 1900's, 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. Holden, Stephen (October 21, 1983). "Things Are Looking Up Again For Phoebe Snow". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  9. 9.0 9.1 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".
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Music: Throwing In the Crying Towel". Time. May 1, 1989.
  11. Pareles, Jon (June 5, 1989). "Review/Television; The Pop World Wrestles With 'Our Common Future'". The New York Times. 
  12. "Phoebe Snow, the Greatest Voice of Her Generation, Dies at 60". Showbiz411. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  13. 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."
  14. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 511. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links Edit

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