Were any of us prepared for the phenomenon that was Phoebe Snow? In 1974 I was a senior in high school; along came Phoebe with her magnificent debut, a bouquet of tunes (Poetry Man, Harpo’s Blues, Either or Both, I Don’t Want the Night to End, Take Your Children Home, It Must be Sunday, No Show Tonight—I mention them all because each are brilliant distillations of emotion wrapped in beguiling melody) any songwriter would be proud to claim. It was one Cancer talking to another: I played these songs over and over, convinced I’d found what I didn’t even know I was looking for at the time—she, with that lemon-twanged stratospheric voice (Phoebe: “I tried to sing the way a guitar sounds and the way a saxophone sounds too.”) was the singer of my mind, an embodiment of all my boy-man yearnings, anxieties, sadness and joy.
She followed it up with Second Childhood and Something Real, albums I also played to death. But the life that followed couldn’t accommodate the music that might’ve been. She shifted her priorities to raising her severely disabled daughter Valerie, who died in 2007 at the age of 31. Sightings were rare—a concert here and here, or that once-in-a-lifetime voice might waft, improbably, deliciously, from your television set: who knew I’d find myself waiting for a commercial just to hear Phoebe sing, “celebrate the moments of your life.”
Below, the lyrics to my favorite Phoebe Snow song. RIP, thanks for making all our second childhoods a little sweeter.