On June 5, 2009, I posted a birthday card to Maria Desiderio on Laura Nyro myspace.com.¹
I happened upon the fact that circa 1967, Laura Nyro and Maria Desiderio began a “flame” (an intimate relationship between an older woman & a younger woman). Laura was 19 and Maria was 13. “So let the wind blow…Timer, I like her song.”
My discovery is supported by: hard facts, historical data, Laura’s songs, the undisputed fact that she regularly used her songs as confessions, and Laura’s custom to write about Maria in her songs.
According to Zoe Nicholson, Maria’s ex, the following is true. Maria and Zoe first met in 1970. Zoe claimed that even back then, Maria was already obsessed with Laura Nyro. Zoe and Maria became lovers in 1976. Sometime in 1978, Laura met Zoe and Maria on a fan line at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Much to Zoe’s astonishment, sometime in 1980, Laura showed up in the “Gypsy with dog and child” at Zoe/Maria’s Magic Speller bookstore. Zoe threw Maria out on Labor Day Weekend 1982. Around 1986, Zoe, Laura and Maria reformed a deep friendship until Laura’s death. Zoe is emphatic that all three: Zoe, Laura and Maria were bisexual, but living in and embracing the radical, feminist, lesbian subculture.# Zoe insists Laura told her, expressly, that “Walk the Dog and Light the Light” was about Maria. Zoe confirmed that Maria liked older women both Laura and Zoe were six to seven years older than Maria.
Brian Van der Horst confided that at Laura’s 20th birthday party in the Bronx, he and David L. Geffen concocted to do an advance review of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. According to Brian, “…I asked him (David) to send me a ‘test-pressing’ which he did.” This was months prior to the release of Eli. The review was a rave in the New York Free Press. The same review in which, Brian ingeniously described the back cover of Eli as “representing the parting chrysalis of her old life.” “David gave Columbia the advance copy of my article….” CBS liked the story so much that they had thousands of copies of the review printed and distributed with the album as part of the press kit.
FYI Here’s that pesky back cover!
Tuna Fish Music company, founded by David and Laura, granted use in 1967 of Eli’s lyrics to Brian for his article in the New York Free Press. The review date of Brian’s rave was April 1968, but CBS was putting the review out in advance and as early as possible. As you know Eli’s release date was March 3, 1968. Pete Johnson didn’t publish his comment re: “Emily – There is a momentary shock at hearing a woman romancing another woman” until June 1968.
There exists an understandable, but mistaken, belief that Laura at her live concert Season of Lights alluded to “Timer as being about a cat.” The exact comment implied that after Laura performed “The cat-song” she introduced “Timer” as “another song about a cat.” I dusted off the vinyl. Indeed, Laura did introduce a song as “here’s a song about another cat,” but the song was “When I was a freeport, (& you were the main drag)” and not “Timer.”²
In “Timer,” there are at least a dozen express references to love, a lover, a third party. Who is “I like her song and if the song goes minor I won’t mind”?
I’m bemused by the prior analysis of this song. Everyone dwells on cats and time. No one has tackled the climactic lyrics of “Timer,” i.e. “And if you love me true, I’ll spend my life with you, you and Timer.” These lyrics are an obvious and ultimate expression of love. WHOSE YOU? A remarkable fact is that the actual you turned out to be Maria Desiderio. (see link to “Timer” below)
“Emmie” was Pop’s first lesbian love song and you dismissed it? You insisted that the song could not be a lesbian love song! You wrote “Emmie” “was a favorite of her mother – hardly the endorsement one would expect for her daughter’s paean to her female lover.” Both Maria’s mom, Irene, and Zoe’s mom were enthusiastic about their daughters’ relationship. They were as “out & proud” as their daughters. They fully supported the creation of the “Magic Speller,” a lesbian owned/ lesbian friendly bookstore.³ Laura’s dad said of Maria “She was like another daughter, a lovely woman.” Why wouldn’t Laura’s mom have been proud of her daughter’s creation “Emmie,” even as a Sapphic paean?
You never mentioned the Pete Johnson quote above. On April 25, 1997, seventeen days after Laura’s death, Alanna Nash posted the music comment Passion Player on EW.com touting “Emmie” as “pop’s first lesbian love song.” With ample authority to analyze “Emmie” as an open expression of same-sex attraction, why did you downplay and resist the implications of “her female lover”? Having earned your chops writing for the Advocate, your analysis of “Emmie” was skewed and incomprehensible! (see link to “Emmie” below)
I do not persist in positing something that never happened. I found a witness. Her name is Laura Nyro. She confessed her ultimate love of Maria Desiderio in her personal attribution of “Désiree.” *
I recently published a rave review of the 2004 CD Spread Your Wings and Fly with e-pinions.com. A sample of e-pinions’ commenters found, along with my other assertions, that the observations re: Lauria, were “very helpful.”
It is you, who persists in your denial of the comment posted by Debra J. Wolstein, on June 4, 2009, on facebook.com, concerning Lauria. “Laura & Maria had to have at least tested the waters in the early 70’s for that song to have manifested in ‘71 as such a personal tribute of love and desire…because of the unmistakably erotic/romantic quality of that song (again, I agree that she re-wrote it as a subtle reference to Maria “Desiderio”) and other songs to follow…”
I have urged you repeatedly to listen to the song, and then tell me I’m wrong.* You resist because you know that I am right.
² When I was a freeport and you were the main drag
³ “…Maria…and Zoe…consider themselves the ‘luckiest lesbians alive’ because they have experienced little discrimination regarding their lifestyle…”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wad3bcQlAU0 - vj 3assal
link to Timer
link to Emmie
# youtube links by VJ denknee of Laura Nyro, bisexual, but living in and embracing the radical, feminist , lesbian subculture.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNWF2AxThy0 – N.B. 0:14 to 0:20
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVtd91jhRcw&feature=related – Sappho was a poet, Billie was a real musician, Freda drew the moon.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XoCdBWLv4s&feature=channel – The Wind - N. B. 1:24-25