Phoebe Snow

Phoebe Snow (born Phoebe Ann Laub;[3] July 17, 1950[1][2] – April 26, 2011[1]) was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist, known for her hit 1975 songs "Poetry Man" and "Harpo's Blues" and her credited guest vocals backing Paul Simon on "Gone at Last".[4] She was described by The New York Times as a "contralto grounded in a bluesy growl and capable of sweeping over four octaves."[5] Snow also sang numerous commercial jingles for many U.S. products during the 1980s and 1990s, including General Foods International Coffees, Salon Selectives, and Stouffer's. Snow experienced success in Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s with five top 100 albums in that territory.[6]

Phoebe Snow
Phoebe-Snow 240.jpg
Background information
Birth namePhoebe Ann Laub
Born(1950-07-17)July 17, 1950[1][2]
New York City, New York[1]
DiedApril 26, 2011(2011-04-26) (aged 60)[1]
Edison, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresBlues, jazz blues, folk, gospel, jazz, R&B, pop, rock, rock and roll, soft rock, soul
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1972–2010
LabelsShelter, Columbia, Mirage, Elektra, Eagle, House Of Blues
Associated actsSisters of Glory

Early life, family and educationEdit

Phoebe Ann Laub[3] 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.[7] She was Jewish.[8][9]

Snow was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, and graduated from Teaneck High School in 1968.[10] She subsequently attended Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Illinois, but did not graduate.[11] 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 an early 1900s fictional advertising character used by Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. In the railroad's print ads, a young woman dressed all in white emphasized the cleanliness of Lackawanna passenger trains. (Its locomotives burned anthracite coal, which created less soot than bituminous coal.)[3]


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, recording at The Church Studio.[citation needed] 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 more than a million copies in the United States and became one of the most acclaimed recordings that year.[citation needed]

Print ad for 1975 concert featuring Jackson Browne and Phoebe Snow.

The album 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. (She provided credited guest vocals backing Simon on the gospel-tinged hit single "Gone at Last" later in 1975—#23 on the Hot 100.) The same year, 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 Simon and Linda Ronstadt. During the 1975 appearance, she was seven months pregnant with her daughter, Valerie. Her backup vocal is heard on Simon's hit song "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," along with Valerie Simpson and Patti Austin, from 1975. Both "Gone at Last" and "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" 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 Snow, 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 US 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 No. 37 in the UK.[14] In 1981, Snow, then signed with Mirage Records, released the album Rock Away, recorded with members of Billy Joel's band; it included the Top 50 hit "Games".[citation needed]

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, General Foods International Coffees, Salon Selectives, Stouffer's, Hampton Bay Ceiling Fans, and others to support herself and her daughter.[15] Snow's voice was also featured on commercials for Cotton Incorporated and their The Fabric of Our Lives campaign in 1990s. During the 1980s, she also battled her own life-threatening illness.[clarification needed][15] Snow recorded the theme song for the first season of the TV series 9 to 5. (Dolly Parton's vocals were used for the rest of the show's run.) Snow also 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 No. 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 Snow's "Poetry Man" in an impromptu duet on the PBS series Sessions at West 54th. Hawaiian girl group Nā Leo Pilimehana also had a hit on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1999 with its cover version of "Poetry Man".

In May 1998, Snow received the Cultural Achievement Award from 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.[citation needed]

Snow performed for US 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 10 original tracks, her first original material in 14 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".[citation needed]

Personal life and deathEdit

Between 1975 and 1978 Snow was married to Phil Kearns (who later came out as gay).[18] She had a daughter, Valerie Rose, who was born with severe brain damage.[8][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.[19] She continued to take voice lessons, and she studied opera informally.[19]

Snow resided in Bergen County, New Jersey, and in her later years she embraced Buddhism.[9]

Phoebe Snow suffered a cerebral hemorrhage[9] on January 19, 2010, and slipped into a coma, enduring bouts of blood clots, pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She died on April 26, 2011, at age 60 in Edison, New Jersey.[20]




  • 1981: The Best of Phoebe Snow
  • 1995: P.S.
  • 2001: The Very Best of Phoebe Snow


With other artistsEdit

Various-artists compilationsEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Thursby, Keith (April 27, 2011). "Phoebe Snow dies at 60; singer of 1974 hit 'Poetry Man'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Schudel, Matt (April 27, 2011). "Phoebe Snow, powerful singer of 1970s hit 'Poetry Man,' dies at 60". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c 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 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.)
  4. ^ a b c "Phoebe Snow Chart History". Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 280. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  7. ^ Shewey, Don. "The Blues of Phoebe Snow". Don Shewey. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (October 21, 1983). "Things Are Looking Up Again For Phoebe Snow". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d North, Steve (May 3, 2011). "Remembering my friend, Phoebe Snow" (obituary). Jewish Morning Journal.
  10. ^ Nash, Margo. "Still Singing, Still a Fan Of Trains", The New York Times, June 22, 2003. Accessed February 13, 2020. "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."
  11. ^ "Named for a Train, Phoebe Snow Is on the Right Track". People. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  12. ^ "Phoebe Snow, 'Poetry Man' Singer, Dies", Billboard, April 26, 2011.
  13. ^ "Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 511. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  15. ^ a b "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. ^ O'Donnell, Lisa (September 1, 2011). "Ex-husband of Phoebe Snow leads a musical life out of the closet in Winston-Salem". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  19. ^ a b Friedman, Roger (March 22, 2007). "Saying goodbye to Valerie". Fox News Channel. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ a b "Gold and Platinum Awards". RIAA. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  22. ^ Whitburn, Joel (October 5, 2010). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Publications. ISBN 978-0823085545.
  23. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (June 1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits. Billboard Publications. ISBN 978-0823076932.
  24. ^
  25. ^ RPM Vol 23 #8 (19 April 1975) "RPM Top Singles" p.32
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Phoebe Snow – Shakey Ground / Don't Sleep With Your Eyes Closed".
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 782.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ RPM Vol 50 #7 (17 June 1989) "RPM100 Singles" p.6
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ RPM Vol 24 #6 (4 October1975) "RPM Top Singles" p.41

External linksEdit