Laura Nyro – 2012 Inductee at the Rock Hall

When the Rock Hall opened its exhibit Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power ‘ on May 12, 2011,  I was a strident critic. With the 2012 Induction of  Laura Nyro that changed. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame proved, It Gets Better. Laura Nyro joined other LGBT Inductees, viz.  David Bowie, Dusty Springfield, Elton John, Freddie Mercury of Queen, Little Richard, and Michael Stipe of R.E.M.  “Ma Rainey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence in 1990.” Bessie Smith was also inducted as an Early Influence.

Laura could do “Cock n Roll” with the best of them, e.g. “And When I Die” (Blood Sweat & Tears) and “Eli’s Coming” (Three Dog Night).

Nyro lived a “woman identified, goddess driven existence.”  She was “pathologically private” about her bisexuality.  Nevertheless, she embraced the “radical,  feminist, lesbian subculture.”

The Rock Hall’s choice of Laura Nyro, as a 2012 Inductee, opened her closet door.  The Hall spotlighted a woman, a  part of whose music and lyrics were an open expression of same-sex attraction, seldom  heard in popular song.  In Eli’s “Timer” ’68, she sang “So let the wind blow Timer – let the wind blow Timer/ I  like her song and if the song goes minor, I won’t mind.” Also in Eli is “Emmie” “Pop’s first lesbian love song.”  In 1971, Laura’s personal attribution of Désiree was one of the most undisguised Sapphic paean’s,  ever recorded.

In the same album Gonna Take a Miracle, Nyro sang the “Wind” sans Labelle. Laura  passionately covered, to her male beloved,  a post-coital reverie, e.g.  ” And I long for my love deep within…as he lay warm and tender in my arms.


Two examples of  Laura’s “stunningly bold descriptions” of  sexual intimacy appear in ELI .  In the “Confession” to her ex, a male lover, she sang  “love my lovething – super ride inside my lovething.” To her female lover, she sang “oo, who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? Darlin’ Emmie,  la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la.”

I’m reminded of the adage re: Ginger Rodgers & Fred Astaire,  Laura was  at least as  good, but bisexual and wearing high heels.


An Open Letter to Dan Nigro re: Laura Nyro

Be sure to check out the Appendix below. “She can Pinch and Squeal A Falsetto With the Best of Them (A Rave Review)”  by Brian Van der Horst.   The article contains the origins of:  “Emmie” (as me); and the Back Cover of ELI.    


DAN NIGRO,  (cc Jan Nigro)

Your cousin, Laura Nyro was a pioneer in open expressions of same-sex attraction in popular song. Laura’s songs “Emmie” ’68, “Timer” ’68, “Désiree” ’71,  “Roadnotes” ’84,  “Walk the Dog and Light the Light” ’93, etc.  document a thirty year on/off relationship with Maria Desiderio.  Maria was Laura’s “flame”  & eventual life partner.  Laura Nyro’s  queer  music  was a significant contribution to LGBTQ popular song.  It deserves to be celebrated as an open expression of female sexual attraction, rarely heard in the popular music of the day.

Dan, The following is an edited collection of dialogues and comments posted by you and  myself,  on YouTube – vj covers by Mystkystify & by Sylvette323b,  circa August 2011. Our comments on Mystkystify & Sylvette have been deleted along with the videos.  In the Posting infra at the very bottom are preserved the song timing for the m/Mamas couplet. Throughout the body of the letter I have added other versions of:  “Emmie” “Timer” “The Confession” “Désiree” & “Roadnotes” to provide the flavor of the songs.

“Emmie” released on ELI March 3, 1968 – vj LauraLand4u

DAN: Laura’s own simple explanation for this song was that it was “about the eternal feminine.” The cycle of a girl becoming a woman, and here, Laura the young woman lyrically longs for, but ultimately kisses goodbye the fading innocence of her girlhood. A beautiful and unique expression of self-realization. I thank you for posting this song, which, itself, never grows old. My best regards.. Laura’s cousin Dan.

RABDRAKE: “Emmie, Pop’s first lesbian love song” – Alanna Nash “Passion Player”, April 25, 1997. “There is a momentary shock at hearing a woman romancing another woman” – Pete Johnson in Coast FM and Fine Arts, June ’68, (p50). “Emmie” and “Désiree” are “open expressions of same-sex attraction on Laura’s part.” – Ari Fox Lauren – foremost authority on the music of Laura Nyro. Laura’s candor about cuddling in a woman’s (garden) was sexually subtle while being sensually bold. “Emmie” is a flame/crush song.”

DAN: Hello Sylvette. This is Laura’s cousin Danny. Thank you for keeping Emmie alive here on youtube! It is a stunning track, isn’t it? Laura’s simple explanation for her lyrics here was that it they were “about the eternal feminine.” The cycle of a girl becoming a woman, and here, Laura the young woman lyrically longs for, but ultimately kisses goodbye the fading innocence of her girlhood. An unexpected, beautiful, and unique expression of self-realization. It never grows old. My best to you! -Dan

RABDRAKE: Hi Sylvette, … Dan the “Mama’s couplet” scotches you. Even the music betrays the verboten nature of the crush. The jarring discordance of “Emmie, your mama’s been a calling you.” (2:53 – 3:04) The reverie/vanity of “oo, who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? Darlin” Emmie la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la , oo la la la” (3:053:30) BTW why the different spellings for mama’s/Mama’s? I’ve never encountered a woman who does not agree that cuddling in a woman’s garden is tantamount to fondling the female genitalia.

RABDRAKE: To Laura, Emmie was about the eternal feminine. Zoe Nicholson said Laura was “woman identified.” Would not the two aspects add up? To Laura, lesbian would, at least, be subsumed under ‘the eternal feminine” The lyrics once “Friend” now included “Mother, Daughter, Sister, Lover…” *

“Timer” released March 3, 1968 on ELI –  vj kurt11110

RABDRAKE: Michele Kort claimed Timer was about a cat, pp. 59-60 Soul Picnic. But Laura was quoted  in Coast FM and Fine Arts, October  ’69, “I’ve got this dog Beautybelle. A great big German Sheppard. She’s much bigger than I. She walks me.” Be sure to close your eyes while listening. I dare you to comment that you can’t feel Beautybelle pulling Laura down the street on a walk as Laura muses about love. Please note, the music is classic Tin Pan Alley, i.e. a Cakewalk. Except for the changes, this ditty is a walk/march giving way to a strut and a flourish.

DAN: What a unique and exhilarating song structure! The lyrics seemed so mysterious, but “Timer” was merely Laura’s reference to the creator. As she did in various ways in other lyrics, Laura here references her sometimes reluctant break from her youth and her coming into her self: “holding to my cradle at the start…but now my hand is open, now my hand is ready for my heart,” and her acceptance of the inevitable shift forward: “so let the wind blow timer.” Laura called this insight “folk wisdom.”

RABDRAKE:  Dan, I love your references to the enigmatic, the mysterious. Your lyrical array begins, “holding to my cradle at the start…timer knows the lady’s going to love again if you don’t love me, the lady rambles, nevermore, if you love me true (and ends)if you love me true I’ll spend my life with you…” Whose you? Is it “I like her song, and if the song goes minor I won’t mind”? The fact is that the woman, Laura did spend her life with was Maria Desiderio. This coincidence is almost prescient

DAN:  Dear rabdrake2447 (Ralph Bruno): You pay so little attention to detail of the written word. You have misquoted Laura’s lyrics, fabricated things that were said to you in emails, and continue to misread and misquote my words. Did you see that I said that the lyrics SEEMED so mysterious, followed by how un-mysterious they really were. If you were a reliable and responsible armchair writer, the family could have shared much with you, but it’s not the case, so we will not. Best of luck to you.

RABDRAKE:  Dan, I believe we may have started off poorly. As we both feel passionately about Laura, we tend to have very thin skins. Denknee once wrote this is about music and as such, I’m just as entitled to my opinion as you are to yours.

DAN: Ralph: You must understand that opinions about somebody one did not know (Laura and Maria, to you) and anecdotes and facts about somebody one did know (Laura and Maria to me, and to Laura’s brother Jan), are very different things. When you refuse to consider things we’ve shared, and even to acknowledge explanations Laura herself gave about her art, that reflects poorly on your sense of responsibility as a writer. This is not irredeemable, but you have to be responsible. Please honor Laura.

DAN: mystkystify: I forgot to mention that Laura also had a cat she’d named Timer 🙂 [Dan’s comment was flagged as spam?]

RABDRAKE: Dan, about Timer the cat? Thanks. One of the images that I had of the song was her scolding a pet, why not a cat on her piano? “You’re a fine one Timer, you got me walking through the gates of space. “

The “Confession” released March 3, 1968 on ELIvj bambamanofir

RABDRAKE: “Explaining the song to an interviewer with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner she said, ‘I had just finished with a man and I knew I had to write this song about it.’…Assuming that what she had just ‘finished’ was a sexual experience, Nyro’s postcoital exuberance was stunningly bold.” “Nyro had, in fact, displayed female sexuality on ELI…in a way rarely heard in pop music.” Michele Kort SOUL PICNIC, p.61. And on ELI, the same can be said of “Emmie” with its subtle sexuality  and bold sensuality.

Btw the Back Cover of ELI is worth a thousand confessions.

Back Cover of ELI

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

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.

DAN: Laura’s cousin Dan here. Ralph Bruno (rabdrake2447), thank you for quoting my words correctly this time, however your PARTIAL quote places my words out of context. Your speculation is interesting, but Laura had no involvement with Maria Desiderio in 1971 when this song was released

RABDRAKE:  Dan, it is likely you have no idea when”Lauria” first met. It’s unlikely that as her male relative, Laura would have confided to you the intimate details of her sexual life, particularly, if it involved bisexual behavior. I’m aware that the rest of your quote mentioned that she married in 1971. There is nothing inconsistent! If anything it strengthens the bi-premise. The year 1971 saw her bracketed between Jackson Browne and her husband. What a safe “down low” from which to boast of a woman!

DAN: It is equally likely that YOU have no idea when Laura and Maria first met, and for some reason, you are ignoring Laura’s brother’s statement that Laura and Maria were not acquainted in 1971. You are trying to force-fit puzzle pieces that DON’T fit, as badly as you want them to. Speculation is one thing, but sloppy and irresponsible conclusions are not the work of a “pop historian” that you claim to be. You don’t read things between the lines, you ADD things between the lines.

RABDRAKE: Dan, I respect Jan’s opinion. But, as her older brother, Laura would have been diffident about her intimate bisexual behavior. Why did she change the Chart’s Deserie/Desiree versions to Désiree? Why refrain Désiree 14 times in 2 min. while both the Chart’s versions were 3 times in 3 min. Why did Laura pronounce Dez-a-ray like GAY, while both the Chart’s versions pronounce Dez-a-ree like KEY? This isn’t a force fit; it’s somewhat obvious. Won’t you at least concede the coincidence of Désiree and Desiderio both meaning desire as remarkable?

RABDRAKE:  Dan, On January 25, 2010, Rev-Ola Records released Laura’s covers album Gonna Take A Miracle (GTAM). According to Laura, it was to be a collection of “teenage heart throb songs.” The liner notes by Duglas T Stewart concerning Désiree state, “Before the release of GTAM, this (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 Desiderio.”

“ROADNOTES” released January 1984 on Mother’s Spiritual – vj LauraLand4U

 Rabdrake: Laura couldn’t resist her own Love’s vanity. She always boasted of her love for her woman, Maria. “happy birthday, thirties what do I want? my candles glow Baby, I want everything just everything Baby, I want everything that you can bring ’cause my heart needs to sing now lover that’s right, lover.”

Happy Birthday Thirties, 1984 the year Maria turned 30! Roadnotes was released that same year on Mother’s Spiritual

DAN: Thanks for posting this wonderful track from Mother’s Spiritual, another concept album about feminine principles. I recall with a smile visiting cousin Laura in 1983, and having her play an earlier version of this track for me, as her dogs jumped around behind her. We discussed aging–how funny since I was in my 20s and she in her 30s.. so young, yet we were aware of moving forward in years and what that might bring. She then played To A Child as her 5 yr old son flitted around the room. Sweet..

RABDRAKE: Dan, You know that circa Labor Day Weekend 1982, “Lauria” were living together in a nascent life partnership that lasted 15 yrs. Michele Kort on page 198 in SOUL PICNIC, quoted Michael Maineri, “I said, ‘So what’s going on here? How’s your love life? And Laura answered, ‘Well, it’s right here–Maria and I. I found my soulmate. I’m happy.” Under these circumstances isn’t Roadnotes being about Maria, obvious? Why are you so reluctant to mention Maria? What troubles you about “Lauria”?

RABDRAKE: Dan, “as her dogs jumped around behind her.” Were the dogs Ember and Scootie, Laura and Maria dogs, respectively? Zoe Nicholson used to tease “Lauria” about being so female identified, yet both had male dogs.

DAN: Rabdrake, Are you personally acquainted with Zoe Nicholson?

RABDRAKE: Dan, I love this song. You can feel how happy she is. After all, what more joy to life, than love, child, Wife, family, friends and her dear “EM.” Zoe commented on my blog, post “Maria Desiderio – Part of the Lesbian Tide – Out and Proud in 1978.” The resultant e-mails gave me a wealth of anecdotes. BTW Zoe insists that she was with “Lauria” when they first met, on a fan line, at the Roxy in 1978. She joined the 8 separate sources touting 11 versions of when , where, and how “Lauria” first met!

RABDRAKE: Dan, “None of Nyro’s close friends are certain how she met Maria…Desiderio would later tell Jan Nigro that Laura ~ who friends say had not previously been with a woman lover ~ pursued her. ” Michele Kort SOUL PICNIC, page 196. As to when “Lauria” first met? Estimates are: 1967-68, 1970-71, 1977, 1978, 1980 or early 80s. Phyllis Lyon agreed that it was odd that not even their closest friends knew when, where, and how Lauria first met.                                                                                                                                        If Maria was Laura’s first woman lover, then “Désiree” must be about Maria!



She can Pinch and Squeal A Falsetto With the Best of Them (A Rave Review) by Brian Van der Horst.  (for legible copies see infra, bottom of the Appendix) at #

Van der Horst review part 2, Page 10

This article is from the April 1968 review of  ELI in the New York Free Press – Critique 4, pages 8 & 10.

In the second half of Brian’s review, viz. of “Emily”  he wrote, in part, “She can still look at herself: ‘Emmie’ (and me)” page 10.

Also on page 8 is the explanation of the Back Cover of ELI, “On the back cover of her album, Laura is seen in profile, kissing what appears to be a child. The child is herself,  the photograph taken from a three-quarter angle, and representing the parting chrysalis of her old life.”

Back Cover of ELI

“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” circa March 3, 1968.  (see – An Open Letter to Michele Kort   – posted this blog)

The origin of  “Emmie” as (me) was Brian’s own words. Michele Kort in her biography of Laura Nyro, “Soul Picnic” reported on p. 60, the Ellen Sander claim about her being the partial inspiration for “Emmie.” Laura’s reply was reputed to have been “…Well, it’s sort of a combination of you and someone else…” Laura’s  own words about “Emmie” were definitely not an affirmation of Brian’s “me” theory.

The explanation of the back cover of ELI came from the richness of the imagery of Brian Van der Horst. The article itself issued circa Eli’s release date of March 3, 1968, had an express copyright grant from Tuna Fish Music -1967.  From it’s inception the article was an in-house approved rave.

On May 22, 2007,  Gregor von Kallahann, in his review of Soul Picnic for reported, “Even as a teenager growing up in a small town in Maine, some of my friends said knowingly… that Laura was ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ …How else could you explain that back cover on ELI…?”

On August 12, 2007,  Michele Kort wrote this rave comment for the  von  Kallahann review.

“Gregory, thank you for this beautiful review. It’s wonderful to see reflected by a reader what one hoped to accomplish as a writer. I didn’t want to destroy Laura’s mystery for MYSELF, either–ultimately, her music was more important, because I didn’t want to ruin what had been sustenance for me for 30 years. Yet I was totally curious about the details of her life. But I reported them as corroborated facts, not gossip.I love your line about the book not wanting to “explain away her allure.” “That says it… Michele Kort”
The notion of  “Emmie” as (me), as well as, the explanation of ELI’s back cover as being “the parting chrysalis of her old life” argue for a love focused upon a younger woman. The question is not if a younger woman. The question is which younger woman, Laura herself or that enigmatic soul mate, Maria Desiderio?
# Copies of the full article available upon request by leaving an e-mail address in the comments for this post.


* 3rd Rabdrake Emmie comment originally at Timer re:  “Emmie” eternal feminine added supra for continuity

“Emmie” –  vj LauraLand4you for reference to the “Mama’s couplet”  NB 2:52 – 3:03  &  3:04 – 3:28.

LOVE on a TWO-WAY STREET by Laura Nyro

Love on a Two-way Street – by Laura Nyro – live cover in Japan 1972.

Notice how Laura’s cover version stripped the song of every “male” gender reference, e.g. “his lips were gently saying…he held me in desperation…then he walked out” Truly bisexual in its appeal, her beloved could be a man or a woman? And she being so recently married and “Désiree” released on GTAM November 17, 1971!  Laura makng the song her own. You can see how those avid young fans, male and/or female, in a crush, could hear what they wanted and indulge their own fantasies. What about the Freudian slip for a bi-woman “love on a two-way street”, i.e. AC-DC & going both ways. The lyrics lend themselves to such an interpretation.


I found love on a two-way street

And lost it on a lonely highway

Oo I found love on a two-way street

And lost it on a lonely highway

True love will never die, so I been told

And into my life, you come, forever

With music gently playin’  her heart was gently sayin’

Darlin’ I love you.

I held you in desperation, I thought it was a revelation,

and you walked out

I found love on a two-way street

And lost it on a lonely highway

Oo I found love on a two-way street

And lost it on a lonely highway

True love will never die,  so I been told

And into my life, you come, forever

With music gently playin’  my heart was gently sayin’

Darlin’ I love you.

I held you in desperation,  I thought it was a revelation,

and you walked out

I found love on a two-way street

And lost it on a lonely highway

Lonely highway,  lonely highway,  …

For lyrics comparison – see the 1970 Lezli Valentine original rendition


FOR  Emmie, Pop’s first lesbian love song – see this blog’s  categories –  

WOMEN WHO ROCK: the exhibit opened in Cleveland at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame/Museum on Friday, May 13, 2011.  Currently overlooked is the list of 24 songs infra which feature the Women who pioneered  open  expressions of same-sex attraction in popular music, and those songs:

1. Emmie by Laura Nyro – released 3/ 3/68 – “Pop’s, first lesbian love song” – Alanna Nash E. W. Passion Player April 25, 1997

2. Timer by Laura Nyro released 3/3/68 “so let the wind blow Timer…I like her song”. 1:56-2:06

3. Désiree by Laura Nyro – released 11/17/71 – Laura Nyro’s personal attribution of  “Désiree” is one of the most undisguised professions of love by a woman singing to another woman ever recorded.

4.  Maggie May by Cathy Young –  Note her emphasis as she echoes“But you turned into a lover , oo, what a lover, you wore me out…”  1:55-2:03 – Recorded in October, 1972

5.  I Only Want to Be with You by Alix Dobkin on the album Lavender Jane released 1973.

6.  She loves me by Carol MacDonald of ISIS released 1974. //click link below for sample

7.  Gloria by Patti Smith released 1975

8. Sweet Woman by Cris Williamson released 1977

9.  Sunday Girl by Deborah Harry – Blondie released 1979 – as a Drag King –  “If your love was as sweet as mine I could be Sunday’s girl.”

10. High School Confidential by Carole Pope and Rough Trade – originally released 1980. NOTE the “Figleaf” at 1:52-1:55

1986 concert

11.  Valerie by Rindy Ross -Quarterflash -released 1981

12.  The Weakness In Me by Joan Armatrading – released 1982 – Arguably the First same-sex love triangle song. “this old love has me bound, but the new love cuts deep”

13.  Crimson & Clover by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts 1983

14.  When you were mine by Cyndi Lauper released 1983

15.  Roadnotes by Laura Nyro released 1984 – Mother’s Spiritual

16.  Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter by Phranc – released 1991

17.  If It Isn’t Her by Ani Difranco  released 1992 – “Standing like John Wayne, She is full frame. She is center stage…She says: ‘Do I know you?” “I say: ‘Well, no, not biblically.”


-following the link below will bring you to a nice vid that really punches this song’s lyrics-

18.   I Kissed A Girl by Jill Sobule released 1995.

19.  Me and Mrs Jones by Sarah Jane Morris released 1995 and banned that year by the BBC

20. Tonight’s the Night by Janet Jackson released 1997


21.  Squeezebox Days by The Murmurs – released 1997. “Can’t we just spend the night together ? So I got something to think about tomorrow.”

22.   One More Hour by Sleater-Kinney released 1998. “In one more hour I will be gone…oh, you’ve got the darkest eyes…don’t say a word about the other girl.”

23.  Never Be The Same Again by Melanie C Sporty Spice and Lisa Left Eye Lopes released 1999.  Mel C:  “I’m hoping that you feel the same?” Left Eye: “Yeah.” at  1:02-1:07 –  This duet was unique in that the two women dialogue an open same-sex attraction.


live duet

Prove It On Me Blues by Ma Rainey performing as a Bull Dyke released 1928 – vj lucymusicfan. Please be sure to click the 2nd link below. The artwork, the cultural lesbiana, the lyrics, and the article by Jonathan Ned Katz are not to be missed.

see also 2nd link below by’s_%22Prove_It_On_Me_Blues,%22_1928

I am the Blues – Laura Nyro May 30, 1971


props to vj teletubenubie

Release of the lyrics of "I am the Blues" ¹ recorded at the

Fillmore East, Sunday May 30, 1971. 4th selection of the

live concert² Spread Your Wings And Fly. CD 2004.

I AM THE BLUES (early version)

Cigarettes, I'm all alone with my smoke and ashes Cigarettes, I'm all 
alone with my smoke and ashes I’m a street walker, in my 
“love for sale” shoes Who? Who am I? I am the blues 
Knocking on my door, I can’t see God shining 
I can’t see God shining. I can’t see God shining 
I guess I can’t see too much, no more 
Baby because I am the blues. I am the blues 
Run down the streets of calico 'n 
Don’t tell the sky, they’re blue Just give me who. 
Who am I? I am the blues. 
I am the blues Baby because I am the blues Soothe me. 
Horn's warm red love making - Funky music Soothe me. 
Horn's warm red love making - Funky music 
For some girl crying in her love for sale shoes 
Who? Who is she? She is the blues 
I need to see a friend All I do is wonder. 
All I do is wonder All I do is wonder 
when the hell the thunder will end 
Baby because I am the blues. I am the blues 
Run down the streets of calico 'n Don’t tell the sky, they’re blue 
Just give me who. Who am I? I am the blues. 
I am the blues Baby because I am the blues ‘n I tell myself 
Right on 
Right on 
Right on 
Right on 
Right on 
Woo Right on Right on Blue
Run down the streets of calico 'n 
Don’t tell the sky, they’re blue Just give me who. 
Who am I? I am the blues. I am the blues 
Just a lot of blues, come down on me today.

¹Acknowlegment & special thanks to Nyroman

² Props to youtube vj starduster cover now defunct

Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, Maria Desiderio

ELI Silhouetted back cover

     The silhouetted picture on the back cover of the vinyl record album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession became  Laura Nyro’s memento mori of  her eventual life partner, Maria Desiderio . 

N.B. The above image is also available on GOOGLE .


     “Timer” is actually Laura Nyro’s thirteenth confession from the album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. It has been alleged that “Timer” is about a cat and/or the passage of time. There is even an erronious  claim that Laura, at her live concert Season of Lights, alluded to “Timer as being about a cat.”  After she performed “The cat-song,”  Laura did say while introducing  the song “When I was a freeport (& you were the main drag)” “here’s a song about another cat.” ¹

     What the lyrics of “Timer” do reveal is Laura musing about love, e.g.  “and now my hand is ready for my heart… Timer knows the lady’s gonna love again – if you don’t love me – The lady rambles never more – if you love me true…And if you love me true, I’ll spend my life with you…”  Supporting the notion about the passage of time is the ascending lyrical array climaxing as shown above. The array covers the beginning of  life “holding to my cradle at the start” and ends “I’ll spend my life.” But even these references, arguably about the passage of time, are wrapped in allusions to love .   (see the youtube links to “Timer” below)   

   Charlie Calello, the arranger & Laura’s co-producer, claimed that every song of ELI “had some underlying meaning about her own life…Eli was one of her boyfriends…” Michele Kort,  Soul Picnic, p. 62. 

    The newspaper ads for the album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession stated  “She doesn’t explain anything – She fills you with experience.” ibid p. 62.

    The  lyrics  of  “The Confession” e.g. “love my lovething, super ride inside my lovething,” were described by Kort as “a postcoital exuberance.” ibid p.61. The lyrics “oo who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? darlin Emmie, oo la la la, oo la la la …” were part of “ Emmie,’ Pop’s first lesbian love song.” (Alanna Nash – April 25, 1997 – Passion Player)  As early as June 1968, Pete Johnson in his review of  “Emmie” in Coast FM & Fine Arts (p.50) commented “There is a momentary shock at hearing a woman romancing another woman.” *

    With the album released on March 3, 1968, it’s easy to see why CBS would have been loathe to “explain anything.”  

      As with “Emmie,” the muse for “Timer” was Maria Desiderio. She was thirteen and Laura was nineteen. “So let the wind blow Timer …I like her song and if the song goes minor – I won’t mind.” Haunting and prescient are the lines “And if you love me true, I’ll spend my life with you, you and Timer.”

      Laura’s songs: “Emmie” ’68, “Timer” ’68, “Désiree,” (“Gonna Take a Miracle” 1971), “Roadnotes” (“Mother’s Spiritual” 1984),  “Walk the Dog & Light the Light” ’93, “Angel in the Dark” and “Sweet Dream Fade” both ’94 (“Angel In The Dark” 2001)  reveal an “on and off” relationship of thirty years, from 1967 to 1997, Laura’s death.

     Laura and Maria shared an undisputed 15 year, eventual, life partnership.  Laura, Maria, and their dog Ember were buried (ashes interred) under the Japanese Maple at their estate in Danbury CT.

      Laura left us her keepsake, of Maria, on the back cover of the vinyl dust jacket of Eli. In March 1968, Columbia released the thirteen-track vinyl record. Creativity wise, her recently negotiated four album contract with CBS gave her carte blanche. It was not an exaggeration that Laura listed herself on Eli’s back cover as “the writer, composer, voices, piano and witness to the confession.” As such, she would have been free of any inhibition in witnessing the confession in a graphic way. On May 22, 2007, Gregor von Kallahann, in his review of Soul Picnic for reported, “Even as a teenager growing up in a small town in Maine, some of my friends said knowingly… that Laura was ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ …How else could you explain that back cover on ELI…?” On August 12, 2007, Michele Kort posted a rave comment on the von Kallahann review. ^

      There are the other explanations of the silhouetted picture being a double exposure and/or a three-quarter angle of a young Laura. Brian Van der Horst, in his April 1968 review of Eli in the New York Free Press, Critique – 4, p.8, ingeniously, described it as “representing the parting chrysalis of her old life.” Assuming it true, notwithstanding, the back cover is a memento of her then “flame” and eventual life partner, Maria Desiderio.

    The ditty on the vinyl record, Part 2, 13. The Confession is very likely a deliberate diversion, a subterfuge common to a “flame” (an intimate friendship between an older woman and a younger woman).  But,  reminiscent of the flame, that Laura kept for Maria, is the token of the inside lyric flap. The outer flap, appearing as part of the cover, contains the title in script viz “Laura Nyro   Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.” Just below that is the printed menu of the thirteen songs and a last line “Lyrics Within.” As you open the flap, revealed  on the other side, are the lyrics of “Eli’s Comin'” & “Timer,” hence, Eli and the Thirteenth confession (Timer). 

       Argue all you want, you can’t get around “Désiree.”  In 1971, she records  “Désiree,” a song that can only be described as a Sapphic reverie. Laura, uniquely, titles her cover “Désiree.”   She refrains her beloved’s name 14 times in 1:48 min/sec. More than a remarkable coincidence are the facts that “Désiree” means desire and  Maria’s last name, Desiderio, also means desire. Laura’s treatment of  this ditty was her personal attribution. Kort mentions in Soul Picnic, that  “Désiree” was stripped down to voice, piano, and vibes with “Nyro smoothly harmonizing with herself.” ibid p.133. Laura insured that this song would be just so.#

      The past analysis of the song “Timer” has dwelled on cats and time. No one tackled the climactic lyrics, 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! Who might “you” be, if not Maria? It is a remarkable coincidence that Maria Desiderio was the you that Laura did eventually spend her life with. As remarkable as the coincidence that the beloved’s name in the song “Désiree”and Maria’s last name Desiderio both meant desire.

     Supporting the notion that “Timer” was a love song to a woman is the redacted version of “Timer” from Laura’s live concert on May 30, 1971. This concert occurred while she was deep in love’s thrall  with her fiancé,  her future husband, a Vietnam War Veteran.  (see link  for the redacted “Timer” at  “Spread Your Wings and Fly)

    If Maria was the inspiration for “Désiree,” is it such a stretch to trace the origin of the flame back to 1967, especially, as Laura marked the event with “Timer” & “Emmie” and the Back Cover of Eli?

Listen to the song, then tell me I am wrong!  (Désiree  #3. on the g2g love song list)#



The actual quote “Here’s a song about another cat” appears on side two of the vinyl album of the live concert, Season of  Lights. It is found  between tracks 2 & 3, i.e.  “The Cat-Song” & “Freeport,”  and  is heard between  2 & 3, without  interruption & respectively.  

# Désiree by Laura Nyro released November 1971.

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


 “Timer.” -Kurt11110

P.S. don’t let Kurt11110 seduce you with his cats. lol

 Emmie, Pop’s first lesbian love song.  


Youtube link to “Emmie”

^ Amazon Review of Soul Picnic & Comments

An Open Letter to Maria Florio

December’s Boudoir – The Film
Hi Maria Florio:
There is overwhelming, circumstantial evidence that Laura and Maria, Lauria were a flame (an intimate friendship between an older woman and a younger woman). The origin of the flame can be traced back to 1967, e.g. “Emmie,” “Timer,” and the silhouetted back cover of the vinyl record album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, released on March 3, 1968.
My premise is virtually absolute when viewed in the context of Laura’s personal attribution of Désiree. Released in 1971 on “Gonna Take a Miracle,” Désiree is a Sapphic reverie to and about Maria. Laura refrained her beloved’s name 14 times in a 1:48 min/sec. A name that means desire. Remarkable is the fact that Maria’s last name, Desiderio, means desire. Both Michelle Kort and Patty DiLauria refuse to rebut my claim that the inspiration for Désiree was Maria. Nor am I the only person who is on the record.
Debra J. Wolstein, who admitted to personal knowledge of Lauria, posted the following on on June 4, 2009, 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…”
My main tag is Rabdrake. I am a “lesbian pop” historian. Rabdrake’s Weblog posts  The g2g love song list. Currently, there are 94 songs with well over 100 links to videos enhancing the songs listed. Song #3 is “Désiree.” “Timer” is song #1. “Emmie” is #2. Walk The Dog & Light the Light is song #64.
The categories on the web-page can more specifically direct you; should you need further data.
Anything that you can add would be welcome. Any help that I can offer is yours for the asking. Thanks RAB