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 – EW.com 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 Amazon.com 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)#


¹  http://music.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=music.artistalbums&artistid=1951040&albumid=13742640  

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




 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cX7ahizSh8 -Kurt11110

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

 Emmie, Pop’s first lesbian love song.  

*  http://lgbt.wikia.com/wiki/Emmie_%28Laura_Nyro_song%29

Youtube link to “Emmie”


^ Amazon Review of Soul Picnic & Comments 



Did not know about Timer

Please, click for an expanded view & comments

     Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, released March 3, 1968, is an example of the superb talent Laura Nyro possessed for blending Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building. Musically, the influence of Tin Pan Alley is manifest in “Timer.” The song opens with a cakewalk, i.e. a march cadence which gives way to a strut. The cakewalk is again refrained in the closing.  In the late 19th century, the cakewalk became a fad and marked the onset of Tin Pan Alley (circa 1880’s to 1930’s &/0r 1950’s.

Laura listed herself on the vinyl back cover of Eli as the “writer, composer, voices, piano and witness to the confession.”

It is widely accepted that her earthy musical style and candid sexual imagery are about her men, i.e. “Eli’s Comin,” “December’s Boudoir,” and “The Confession,” e.g. “love my lovething – super ride inside my lovething.”
“Emmie” was “pop’s first lesbian love song.”¹ Laura sang of her beloved in a frank and exalted style, e.g.  “you ornament the earth for me,” “the natural snow,” “the unstudied sea,” “you’re a cameo.”  Laura was a weaver of song, and Laura’s beloved “ you were born a weaver’s lover. Born for the loom‘s desire.” (Laura’s piano)

The inspiration for “Emmie” was Maria Desiderio, aged 13. While respecting by her discretion, Maria’s tender age, Laura could not resist her own love’s vanity. Laura sang in her flame to Maria, “oo who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? darling Emmie, oo la la la, oo la la la…” For the past two years, I have interviewed scores of gay, bi, and straight women about the import of these lyrics. Every woman has considered “cuddling  in a woman’s garden” to be a description of an  intimate embrace of the female genitalia.


Laura was  widely reported to have said at concerts that the song “Timer” was about a cat. This was incorrect. The vinyl recording of the live concert  of Seasons of Lights makes it clear that the comment  “here’s a song about another cat” was in reference to “When I was a freeport (& you were the main drag)” and not about “Timer.”#

The opening musical phrasing of “Timer” conjures a pace and the lyrics evoke the imagery of a dog walk. The song is her musings about love, e.g. “and now my hand is ready for my heart.”
But, who was “My lady woke up – and she broke down – she got up – she let go…”?
Who was the muse for “I like her song and if the song goes minor – I won’t mind”?
Who is being put on notice in “And 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 – you and Timer”?

It was also reported that “Timer” was about the passage of time. But lyrically, the song was mostly Laura’s feelings about love and not the passage of time, e.g. “But now my hand is open and now my hand is ready for my heart.”  The song repeatedly identified or was spoken to a lover.

By juxtaposing the lines “My lady woke up – and she broke down – she got up – she let go”  with the lyrics “Baby I’m not trying to talk you down,” is there  the suggestion of a lovers’ falling out? And is the lyrical ultimatum “the lady rambles never more– if you love me true,” an allusion to the reason for the tiff?

“So…let the wind blow Timer / I like her song – and if the song goes minor – I won’t mind.” Is the repeated use of the idiom “let the wind blow” for emphasis and to suggest a willingness to brave what may be  adverse consequences? Is the use of the phrase “…if the song goes minor”  to suggest the possibility of a lost or unrequited love?  Is it also, a subterfuge common to a flame, i.e. a  cryptic reference to  Maria’s age?

Are the lyrics “but I could walk thru them doors onto a pleasure ground. It was sweet and funny a pleasure ground” the same as cuddling in Mama’s garden?

Any doubt as to the lover being a woman was dispelled by Laura’s redacted version of “Timer” performed on May 30, 1971, in live concert at the Fillmore East. It becomes apparent when viewed in the context of the song “American Dove” which was Laura’s love song to her fiancé, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. Both songs were released on the 2004 CD Spread Your Wings And Fly

Maria was also the inspiration for “Désiree” on the album Gonna take a miracle? ³^

The young woman silhouetted with Laura on the back cover of the vinyl album jacket of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession became Laura’s memento  mori to her then flame and eventual life partner, Maria Desiderio.

The picture is worth 1,000 confessions and renderings of the image are an easy find on-line.*


The songs of ELI are a treat, a treasure trove of her musical precocity and lyrical poetry. Even though the silhouetted picture is not on the back of the CD, the re-mastered songs beat the dust off the vinyl.  (The back cover is shown inside the jewel box behind the  CD disc)



¹  http://lgbt.wikia.com/wiki/Emmie_%28Laura_Nyro_song%29

   ²  https://rabdrake.wordpress.com/category/its-been-a-long-time-coming/

³  https://rabdrake.wordpress.com/category/desiree-sapphic-reverie-to-maria-desiderio/

^ Links below to “Désiree”



   * N.B.  be sure to avoid the strict search mode on Google.