If you asked me what singer best embodied the “sound of the ‘70s”, Phoebe Snow would certainly be at the top of my list. So I was saddened to learn that Phoebe died this morning in Edison, NJ, from complications of a brain haemorrhage she suffered over a year ago. She was only 58 years old.
Who can forget her biggest hit, the sultry “Poetry Man”?
You are a genie
All I ask for is your smile
Each time I rub the lamp
When I am with you
I have a giggling teenage crush
Then I'm a sultry vamp, yeah sultry vamp
Talk to me some more
You don't have to go
You're the poetry man
You make things all right, yeah, yeah
Who was the real-life poetry man? In 1989, Phoebe went on the record to say that despite rumors to the contrary, it was not singer/songwriter Jackson Brown. "No, no. It's somebody you wouldn't know. People just thought Poetry Man was Browne because he was the first act I toured with," she told USA Today.
Phoebe’s career ended about as quickly as it began. In 1975, she gave birth to her daughter, Valerie, who suffered from serious build-up of fluid in her brain. Not expected to live for more than a few years, Valerie lived 31 years, and Phoebe gave up her musical career and dedicated her life to caring for her daughter.
"She was the only thing that was holding me together," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. "My life was her, completely about her, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed at night."
Phoebe did eventually return to the recording studio, but her later material never matched the success of “Poetry Man”. She also sang the theme song for “A Different World” (a spin-off of The Cosby Show that starred Lisa Bonet as a college student at the fictional Hillman College) as well as the TV commercial jingle for General Foods International Coffees (remember “Celebrate the Moments of Your Life”?).
I thought you might like to hear a lesser-known performance by Phoebe Snow. This is from her 1979 appearance on Saturday Night Live, where she sang “The Married Men” with Linda Ronstadt. I love Linda too, but I think Phoebe blows her away in this clip.