Désiree by Laura Nyro – a Sapphic Reverie of Maria Desiderio

Désiree released November 17, 1971 on Gonna Take a Miracle. – vj megasoreassrawr


The Charts’ two versions were Deserie ’57/Desiree ’67;  Laura spelled her personal attribution Désiree ’71. The Charts pronounced their beloved’s name Dez-a-ree (like key); Laura pronounced her soulmate’s name Dez-a-ray (like gay). In their versions the Charts sang Deserie (3) times and Desiree (6) times in 3 minutes; Laura sang Désiree 14 times in 2 minutes! Gonna Take a Miracle (GTAM) was to be an album of teenage heartthrob songs. Most of the tracks were bare covers save for Wind & Spanish Harlem’s gender shifts and Désiree/desire, a perfect song, on the down low, to her flame, Maria Desiderio/desire.  CBS issued only one 45 rpm from the album. The eponymous   song GTAM was side A and on  side B was  Désiree. The  CBS archives described both songs as “lesser known covers.”  Laura stripped Désiree down to voice, piano and vibes. Laura wanted this attribution to be very personal,  therefore Laura is the only voice,  sans Labelle.


RABDRAKE: Dan Nigro, Laura’s cousin wrote, “Desiree could have been dedicated to any number of the enigmatic women in Laura’s life at the time.” It is very reasonable to narrow the field to Maria Desiderio, who was seventeen at the time. After all, Desiree and Desiderio both mean desire! Zoe Nicholson, Michele Kort and Patti Di Lauria agree that Laura considered Maria to be her soul mate. I can’t imagine a more perfect song that Laura could have dedicated, on the down low, to her soul mate, Maria.

Upon your equest, I listened to “Wedding Bell Blues.” Nothing in the song refutes Laura’s bisexuality. It’s not until four years later, in “American Dove” that she sings of  the fulfillment of the love  longed for, in “Wedding Bell Blues.” In “American Dove” an original song honoring her fianće, she refrains, several times, “it’s been a long time comin, I mean love.”  They marry in late  1971.

What is  her live performance of “American Dove” on May 30, 1971, and her recording of  “Désiree” in July 1971, all about? Singing with such a depth of passion toward both a man and a woman in less than 60 days, attests to her bisexuality, and not to her being a lesbian.

Nor is this the first time! On March 3, 1968, Laura released Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. In addition to “Eli’s Comin,” in two other songs, she uses candid sexual imagery to describe her men. “Love my lovething. Super ride inside my lovething” (The Confession) and “I take my coffee in the   mornin’ and all your love, a spoonful or so helps us grow”(December’s Boudoir). Another two songs, to her woman, are just as candidly sexual. “oo…who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? darlin Emmie,…la la la, oo la la la…” (Emmie), and “I  keep rememberin Indoors that I use to walk thru…I could walk thru them doors onto a pleasure ground, it was sweet and funny a pleasure ground.” (Timer).


 Ari Fox Lauren, a music theorist, made a study of Laura’s work.  A major premise of her thesis is that Laura was heavily influenced by the music of Tin Pan Alley & the other composers of the American Songbook.

 Cole Porter is a composer of the American Songbook.  On May 7, 1953, Porter opened Can-Can on Broadway. The song “C’est Magnifique” was all the rage. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, et al covered it. Laura’s father played trumpet at the summer resorts of the “Borscht Belt.” She would have been immersed in the song. The lyrics are: “When love comes in and takes you for a spin, oo la la la C’est Magnifique.  When every night your love one holds you tight, oo la la la C’est Magnifique.”  


 As with “C’est Magnifique,” “Emmie” is about love, romance, and sex. However, in 1968, Emmie was “a love that dare not speak its name.” “Emmie’ was Pop’s first lesbian love song,”  A comment posted by Alanna Nash, April 25, 1997, seventeen days after Laura passed away. See LGBT wikia article link Re: “Emmie (Laura Nyro song)”



“So let the wind blow Timer…/ I like her song and if the song goes minor – I won’t mind”


“And if you love me true – I’ll spend my life with you – you and Timer…carved in a heart on a berry tree.” – Laura n’ Maria ‘67


The album Gonna Take a Miracle was released on November 17, 1971. Despite, the fact that the album was to be only covers, wholly unoriginal material, “…Nyro remained fully in charge.” Michele Kort,  Soul Picnic p.133.  It was variously billed as “a reminiscence of teenage heartthrob songs from Laura’s youth.”  The major exception was Laura’s personal attribution of Désiree, along with her genderizing/reinvention of “Spanish Harlem.”

The basis for “Désiree” was The Charts’ versions which were done as the 1957 original “Deserie” and the 1967 nostalgia remake “Desiree.” Deserie/Desiree are classic doo-wop ’57 and” Northern Soul” and both spellings are  pronounced the same. [Dĕz -ä-rē (like key)] Laura was a walking compendium of doo-wop. She would have been aware of both versions, spellings, and pronunciations. Both versions are available on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8L4m3-jbsU– Deserie – hwaj5300

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uSWVKT10cc – Desiree – cc187cc

Laura’s own treatment of the song is earthy & raw, a sultry love ballad. The song is an undisguised statement of love, an open expression of same-sex attraction, a Sapphic Paean.

A curious coincidence is the 1954 movie in which Jean Simmons starred with Marlon Brando entitled Désirée. This popular film was based upon the historical novel by Annemarie Selinko about Désirée Clary, the mistress of Napoleon. Eventually, Clary was crowned Queen Desideria of Sweden. Laura would have been aware of this Hollywood spectacle.

Argue all you want, you can’t get around Désiree. In July 1971, she sang a song that she, uniquely, titled Désiree and pronounced [Dĕz-ä-rā (like ray or gay)]. She adapted her cover from classic doo-wop to a sultry love ballad. Her beloved’s name was  Désiree and Maria’s last name was Desiderio. Both names mean desire. The name transposition was not mere coincidence, but is evidence of a deliberate subterfuge. Laura repeated the name Désiree 14 times in the 1:48 minute/seconds. Her  treatment was a personal attribution. Kort mentions  in  Soul Picnic, that “Désiree” was stripped down to voice, piano  and vibes with “Nyro smoothly harmonizing with herself.” p.133. Laura insured that this song would be just so. It was to mark their June/July rendezvous to celebrate Maria’s 17th birthday of June 10, 1971. In October , 2009, Duglas T Stewart, wrote the liner notes for the 2010 Rev-Ola CD re-release of  Gonna Take a Miracle. He said “Désiree’ was the most obscure song in the set but many see it as the most personal and important track to Laura, as they believe it was intended as an ode to her great love Maria Desderio.”¹

In light of the undisduted fact that Maria was Laura's
soul mate, Laura’s "Désiree" could not be more perfect as
a song written to and/or about a soul mate.
The song opens with a sigh of total surrender to her
belovéd, an ultimate expression of thrall.

Current link to Désiree.

Désiree by Laura Nyro released November 1971. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wad3bcQlAU0

“Laura Nyro performing Desiree, I couldn’t find this on youtube so I just made  it. It is presumed and almost sure that Laura Nyro’s treatment of her song “Desiree” is one of the most undisguised professions of love by a woman singing to another woman ever recorded. I just love Laura Nyro!” vj 3assal

Laura revealed their limerence with the release of Désiree. She recorded, albeit on the down low, their high romance. Is it such a stretch to date the origin of that “flame” back to 1967? After all, Laura marked that 1967 bonding with her songs “Timer” and  “Emmie” and the silhouetted back cover of vinyl Eli and the ThirteenthConfession.


N.B. The image below is available on GOOGLE in all modes.





There is the sentiment expressed 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.” *

Curiously, no one seems to know exactly when, where or how Laura first met Maria!

Is it so hard to accept that a woman, so passionately loved by so many men and women, would herself have loved, passionately, both men and women?


* http://www.facebook.com/inbox/readmessage.php?t=1121733134580

1. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/reviews/album-laura-nyro–labelle-gonna-take-a-miracle-revola-1868268.html


8 thoughts on “Désiree by Laura Nyro – a Sapphic Reverie of Maria Desiderio

  1. rabdrake says:

    Facebook comment by Debra J. Wolstein

    Hello Ralph,
    Sorry this response is so delayed – I’ve been slammed with rehearsals for a new theatre group’s adaptation of “Songs for a New World”… crazy bass lines, keeping me very busy indeed!
    I believe it was probably 1973 when I started doing Désiree with a trio of the remaining members of my all-girl band The Dairy Queens! The band was very over-the-top genderbending, but the trio was jazzy and laid back, with me on keyboard getting back to the music I loved best – Laura – and a smattering of similarly torch-like tunes that suited my Laura-like piano playing style. That song never left my repertoire, no matter who I played with or where… joke ’em if they can’t take a … well, you know…
    I’d have to agree with the sentiments you shared in your Aug. ’08 review in Songs365… 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… a desire I agree was probably unrequited until later because of Maria’s tender age… but there is no way I’m buying that they were merely friends, or as another reviewer who questioned your angle suggested, that they merely found they could “live together comfortably as Laura recovered from the loss of her man…”. Not just because I have too much invested emotionally in her to believe that, but 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, and because I personally know that Maria wielded much more influence on Laura during her life and on her legacy afterward to have been just a friend. When my friends Desmond Child & Rouge sang at Laura’s tribute concert, Maria apparently controlled every aspect of it, including the barring of videotaping, despite many impassioned appeals that she allow it to be immortalized on film or at least recorded… clearly the protective & grieving wife!!!
    So there you have it – and as you said, because they were so guarded about their lives individually and together, not even close associates know the whole of it, so we more than likely never will either! The beauty of that, though, is the truth gets to be what I hope it was… and that’s good enough for me 🙂

  2. kristian says:

    thank you for posting this. I am a big Laura fan and bisexual (man.)
    I knew that about Emmie, but had no idea that there was so much to Désiree. Yet I’ve always loved that song for so many reasons.

  3. bar stone says:

    hello out there….wish you would get a life….you are so off on everthing Laura..if you had known her….well….she was a private person, with integritry who gave so much to this world…she didnt have time for gossip inuendo, and crap like this..

  4. rabdrake says:

    Hi bar stone: Why is it that you avoid talking about Désiree while posting a comment on the article? You along with Zoe Nicholson, Patti Di Lauria, and Michele Kort, refuse to come forward and talk about Désiree. Michele Kort had the temerity to argue that “Emmie” was not Pop’s first lesbian love song. Shame on her. See “An Open Letter to Michele Kort” – this blog.

    You dare not talk about Désiree! Because if you do, you will have to concede that the song is a sultry love ballad to a woman. How would you avoid the remarkable coincidence that Désiree means desire and Maria’s last name Desiderio means desire? You would have to explain away, why Laura refrained “on the DL” Maria’s name, fourteen times in 1:48 min/sec? On May 30, 1971, Laura sang “American Dove” to honor her fiancé. In July 1971, she records Désiree, her Sapphic paean to Maria. What intervened? It was Maria’s 17th birthday on June 10, 1971. I speculate that they had a rendezvous.

    If you knew her well, as you imply, then have the courage to come out and factually tackle my truths and speculations. All your insults do is make it clear that I am right! You lack the facts to refute me. All that is left to you is argumentum ad hominem. Shame on you, too.

  5. joe says:

    All the Nigros and all of her great fans, are in contempt for RabDrake putting all this crap up. It speculative, its oddly out of step with todays world. NO ONE CARES if she was bi, gay or otherwise. Stop the stupid exploitation

    • rabdrake says:

      Joe, On January 11, 2012, The Rock Town Hall published an article by Mr. Moderator, with this dare: “Please Explain: Laura Nyro in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame?” (see link, infra). To save you scrolling down past over 95+ replies, here is my slightly, corrected comment

      “2011 was the year that inaugurated, It Gets Better. MLB teams: the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs, et al., joined the San Francisco Giants speaking out against the bullying of LGBTQ youth.
      The announcement on December 7, 2011 of Laura Nyro as a 2012 Inductee to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame proved It Gets Better. Laura joined the other LGBT members: Bessie Smith, David Bowie, Dusty Springfield, Elton John, Freddie Mercury of Queen, Little Richard, Ma Rainey, and Michael Stipe of REM.
      It would be easy to rehash Laura’s credits. Unique was her pioneering work in open expressions of same-sex attraction in song, e.g.: “Emmie” ’68, “Timer” ’68, “Désiree” ’71, “Roadnotes” ’84. But I thought the above baseball comparison was a grand slam GOTCHA! Rabdrake”

      In reply, Mr. Moderator said, “Welcome aboard Ralph…That is a worthy part of her work.” Mr. Moderator thought; I met his challenge.


      Joe, it is your mean-spirited bi/homophobia that is out of step with today’s world. Very disturbing is that you are LGBT, yourself. Why can’t you and Dan Nigro join in the celebrations. It Gets Better.

  6. L.S.P. says:

    May 13, 2012
    I first heard the song Desserie When I was in high school in the early 70’s. I knew right away if I had a baby girl someday that would be her name. When my daughter was born in 1986, there was a great deal of controversy over the name I had chosen, though her father and I loved it, this little angel remained unnamed in the hospital for a day at least. Finally it was decided Angela Desserie. In my mind she was the angel much desired, and so she is to this day. However in the 4th grade she declared she would now be called Desserie (Dezerie as she chooses to spell it). She graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in fine and performing arts, and was the muse for many productions. A righteous free spirit, talented, fearless, and funny. Today is mother’s day and Dezerie is many miles away from home. I happened to be watching the Rock and Roll Hall of fame induction, alone, and saw Laura Nyro’s son accepting her award. I cried like a baby, or like a mother. Thank you Laura, I don’t know who that song was intended for but it has always meant so much to me…LSP

    • rabdrake says:

      LSP thank you for your feed back. Happy Mother’s Day. I’m sure in Bette Midler’s words we both were verklempt at witnessing Laura’s induction into the RnRHoF

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