Phoebe Snow

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Phoebe Snow
A black-and-white photo of Snow posing for the camera
Background information
Birth namePhoebe Ann Laub
Born(1950-07-17)July 17, 1950[1][2]
New York City, U.S.[1]
DiedApril 26, 2011(2011-04-26) (aged 60)[1]
Edison, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresBlues,[3] folk, gospel, jazz, R&B, roots rock, soul
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals
Years active1972–2010
LabelsShelter, Columbia, Mirage, Elektra, Eagle, House of Blues

Phoebe Snow (born Phoebe Ann Laub;[4] July 17, 1950[1][2] – April 26, 2011)[1] was an American roots music singer-songwriter and guitarist, known for her hit 1974 and 1975 songs "Poetry Man" and "Harpo's Blues", and her credited guest vocals backing Paul Simon on "Gone at Last".[5] She was described by The New York Times as a "contralto grounded in a bluesy growl and capable of sweeping over four octaves."[6] Snow also sang numerous commercial jingles for many U.S. products during the 1980s and 1990s, including General Foods International Coffees, Salon Selectives, and Stouffer's. Snow experienced success in Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s with five top 100 albums in that territory.[7] In 1995 she recorded a gospel album with Sisters of Glory.

Early life, family and education[edit]

Phoebe Ann Laub[4] was born in New York City in 1950,[1] and raised in a musical household in which Delta blues, Broadway show tunes, Dixieland jazz, classical music, and folk music recordings were played around the clock. Her father, Merrill Laub, an exterminator by trade, had an encyclopedic knowledge of American film and theater and was also an avid collector and restorer of antiques. Her mother, Lili Laub, was a dance teacher who had performed with the Martha Graham group.[8] She was Jewish.[9][10]

Snow was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, and graduated from Teaneck High School in 1968.[11] She subsequently attended Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Illinois, but did not graduate.[12] As a student, she carried her prized Martin 000-18 acoustic guitar from club to club in Greenwich Village, playing and singing on amateur nights. Her stage name came from an early 1900s fictional character featured in Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad ads. In painted and later photographic print images, the young woman 'Phoebe Snow' was dressed all in white to emphasize the cleanliness of the line's passenger trains. (Lackawanna's locomotives at the time burned anthracite coal which created less soot than bituminous coal.)[4]


It was at The Bitter End club in 1972 that Denny Cordell, co-owner (with Leon Russell) of Shelter Records, was so taken by the singer that he signed her to the label and produced her first recording, recording at The Church Studio.[citation needed] She released an eponymous album, Phoebe Snow, including "San Francisco Bay Blues" and "Poetry Man", in 1974, featuring guest performances by The Persuasions, Zoot Sims, Teddy Wilson, David Bromberg, and Dave Mason.

Print ad for 1975 concert featuring Jackson Browne and Phoebe Snow.

The album spawned a top five 1975 single on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Poetry Man" and was itself a top-five album in Billboard, for which she received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.[13] The cover of Rolling Stone magazine followed, while she performed as the opening act for tours by Jackson Browne and Paul Simon. (She provided credited guest vocals backing Simon on the gospel-tinged hit single "Gone at Last" later in 1975—#23 on the Hot 100.) The same year, 1975, also brought the first of several appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on which Snow performed both solo and in duets with Simon and Linda Ronstadt. During the 1975 appearance, she was seven months pregnant with her daughter, Valerie. Her backup vocal is heard on Simon's hit song "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," along with Valerie Simpson and Patti Austin, from 1975. Both "Gone at Last" and "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" appear on Simon's Grammy-winning 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years.

Legal battles took place between Snow and Shelter Records. Snow ended up signed to Columbia Records. Her second album, Second Childhood, appeared in 1976, produced by Phil Ramone. It was jazzier and more introspective, and was a RIAA Certified Gold Album for Snow, with the Gold Album awarded on July 9, 1976.[14] She moved to a more rock-oriented sound for It Looks Like Snow, released later in 1976 with David Rubinson producing. 1977 saw Never Letting Go, again with Ramone, while 1978's Against the Grain was helmed by Barry Beckett. After that, Snow parted ways with Columbia; she would later say that the stress of her parental obligations compromised her ability to make music effectively. In 1979, she toured extensively throughout the US and Canada with noted guitarist Arlen Roth as her lead guitarist and musical director. Her January 1979 cover of the Paul McCartney song "Every Night" reached No. 37 in the UK.[15] In 1981, Snow, then signed with Mirage Records, released the album Rock Away, but the album disappointed music critic Geoffrey Himes.[16]

The 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide summed up Snow's career to that point by saying: "One of the most gifted voices of her generation, Phoebe Snow can do just about anything stylistically as well as technically. … The question that's still unanswered is how best to channel such talent."

Snow spent long periods away from recording, often singing commercial jingles for AT&T, General Foods International Coffees, Salon Selectives, Stouffer's, Hampton Bay Ceiling Fans, and others to support herself and her daughter.[17] Snow recorded the theme song for the first season of the TV series 9 to 5. (Dolly Parton's vocals were used for the rest of the show's run.) Snow also sang the theme song for NBC's A Different World during the show's first season (1987–88).

In 1988, a duet with Dave Mason, called "Dreams I Dream," reached No. 11 on the US adult contemporary charts. Snow returned to recording with Something Real in 1989 and gathered a few more hits on the Adult Contemporary charts. Also, Snow composed WDIV-TV (Detroit)'s "Go 4 It!" campaign in 1980. She sang "Ancient Places, Sacred Lands", composed by Steve Horelick, on Reading Rainbow's tenth episode, The Gift of the Sacred Dog. The episode was based on the book of the same name by Paul Goble and was narrated by actor Michael Ansara. It was shot in Crow Agency, Montana, in 1983.

Snow performed in 1989 on stage at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, as part of Our Common Future: a five-hour live television broadcast originating from several countries.[18] Also that year, Snow sang the jingle for "Colon Blow", a breakfast cereal commercial parody featured on Saturday Night Live.[19]

In 1990, she contributed a cover version of the Delaney & Bonnie song "Get Ourselves Together" to the Elektra compilation Rubáiyát, which included Earth Wind & Fire guitarist Dick Smith. In 1992, she toured with Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue and was featured on the group's album recorded live at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. Throughout the 1990s, she made numerous appearances on the Howard Stern radio show. She sang live for specials and birthday shows. In 1997, she sang the Roseanne theme song a cappella during the closing moments of the final episode.[20]

In 1995, Snow participated in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True at the Lincoln Center in New York City, singing a distinctive medley of "If I Only Had a Brain; a Heart; the Nerve". In addition, the concert featured performances by Jewel, Joel Grey, Roger Daltrey, and Jackson Browne, among others. An album of the concert was released on compact disc on Rhino Records as catalog number R2 72405.

Snow joined with the pop group Zap Mama, who recorded its own version of Snow's "Poetry Man" in an impromptu duet on the PBS series Sessions at West 54th. Hawaiian girl group Nā Leo Pilimehana also had a hit on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1999 with its cover version of "Poetry Man".

In May 1998, Snow received the Cultural Achievement Award from New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Snow performed for US President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, and his cabinet at Camp David in 1999.

In 2003, Snow released her album Natural Wonder on Eagle Records, containing 10 original tracks, her first original material in 14 years. Snow performed at Howard Stern's wedding in 2008, and made a special appearance in the film Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom as herself. Some of her music was also featured on the soundtrack of the film. Her Live album (2008) featured many of her hits as well as a cover of "Piece of My Heart".[citation needed]

Personal life and death[edit]

Between 1975 and 1978 Snow was married to Phil Kearns (who later came out as gay).[21] She had a daughter, Valerie Rose, who was born with severe brain damage.[9][10] Snow resolved not to institutionalize Valerie, and cared for her at home until Valerie died on March 19, 2007, at the age of 31. Snow's efforts to care for Valerie nearly ended her career.[22] She continued to take voice lessons, and she studied opera informally.[22]

Snow resided in Bergen County, New Jersey, and in her later years she embraced Buddhism.[10]

Phoebe Snow suffered a cerebral hemorrhage[10] on January 19, 2010, and slipped into a coma, enduring bouts of blood clots, pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She died on April 26, 2011, at age 60 in Edison, New Jersey.[23]



Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications Record label
US Jazz
1974 Phoebe Snow 4 22 48 Shelter Records
1976 Second Childhood 13 33 71 Columbia
It Looks Like Snow 29 64
1977 Never Letting Go 73 36
1978 Against the Grain 100
1981 Rock Away 51 Mirage
1989 Something Real 75 Elektra
1991 The New York Rock and Soul Revue: Live at the Beacon Giant
1995 Good News in Hard Times (with the Sisters of Glory) Warner Bros.
1998 I Can't Complain House of Blues
2003 Natural Wonder Eagle Records
2008 Live 17 Verve Records
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


  • 1981: The Best of Phoebe Snow
  • 1995: P.S.
  • 2001: The Very Best of Phoebe Snow
  • 2012: Playlist: The Very Best of Phoebe Snow


Year Song Peak chart positions
US Adult
US Pop
1974 "Good Times (Let the Good Times Roll)"
"Poetry Man" 1 5 60 4 28
"Harpo's Blues" 20
1975 "Gone at Last" (with Paul Simon) 9 23 95 29
1976 "Two-Fisted Love"
"All Over"
"Shakey Ground" 70 6
1977 "Teach Me Tonight"
"Never Letting Go"
"Love Makes a Woman" 87
1978 "In My Life"
(only released in the UK, Australia and New Zealand)
"Every Night" 37 22 6
1981 "Games" 46 95
"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" 52
"Baby Please"
1988 "Dreams I Dream" (with Dave Mason) 11
1989 "If I Can Just Get Through the Night" 13 85 63
"Something Real" 29
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

With other artists[edit]

Year Single Album Other Artist Note
1975 "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" Still Crazy After All These Years Paul Simon only backing vocals
"Gone at Last" Still Crazy After All These Years Paul Simon
"Hymn" Aftertones Janis Ian
1976 "Smile" David Sanborn David Sanborn
1977 "Everybody Has a Dream" The Stranger Billy Joel Only background vocals
1978 "Reelin'" One-Eyed Jack Garland Jeffreys
1980 "Sometimes Love Forgets" Hot Spot Steve Goodman
1982 "You Really Got a Hold on Me" Bobby McFerrin Bobby McFerrin
"Hammer & Nails" Experiment in White Janis Siegel
"Whether or Not the World Gets Better" Roll It Jimmy Salvemini
1984 "Gravity's Angel" Mister Heartbreak Laurie Anderson Only background vocals
"Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe" You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd The J. Geils Band Only background vocals
"Thankful N'Thoughtful" Night Lines Dave Grusin
"Between Old and New York" Night Lines Dave Grusin
1987 "The One" Unchain My Heart Joe Cocker
"Dreams I Dream" Two Hearts Dave Mason
1990 "Don't Piss Me Off" Funk of Ages Bernie Worrell
1991 "Club Soul City" Scene of the Crime Killer Joe
"Tossin' and Turnin'" Johnnie Be Back Johnnie Johnson
"Don't Like the Way You Look at My Love" Russ Irwin Russ Irwin Only background vocals
1992 "Knock on Wood" The New York Rock and Soul Revue Michael McDonald
1993 "A Lover's Question" Portrait of the Blues Lou Rawls
"Inner City Blues" The World's Most Dangerous Party Paul Shaffer & the Party Boys of Rock 'N' Roll
"My Emotion" "Yuri" Original Soundtrack Hiroshi Fujiwara
1994 "The Feeling" Robotix Program 2
1996 "Baby I'm Yours" Naked City Avenue Blue feat. Jeff Golub
"Three Little Birds" One World! Gregory Abbott
1997 "People Get Ready" Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends Ladysmith Black Mambazo
1999 "Fugitive of Love" The Importance of Being Ernest Kohl
"The Best Thing" In My Head Robert Lamm
"Swept Away" In My Head Robert Lamm
"One Too Many Mornings" Portraits of Bob Dylan Steve Howe
2003 "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" Harmony Will & Rainbow
"For the Love of You"
"Trouble in Mind"
2004 "B-itch/Dumb A-ss" Back In 20 Gary U.S. Bonds
2008 "Pray for the USA" Yes We Can! Maria Muldaur, Women's Voices For Peace Choir
2009 "Monkey Around" Etruscan Soul Rob Paparozzi
2018 "Oh Happy Day" Christmas at the Vatican CeCe Peniston & Thelma Houston Recorded Live at The Aula Paolo VI, Vatican City.

Various-artists compilations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Thursby, Keith (April 27, 2011). "Phoebe Snow dies at 60; singer of 1974 hit 'Poetry Man'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Schudel, Matt (April 27, 2011). "Phoebe Snow, powerful singer of 1970s hit 'Poetry Man,' dies at 60". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  3. ^ "Phoebe Snow San Francisco Bay Blues". AllMusic. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Kadden, Jack (April 10, 2005). "On a Train Back To a Golden Age". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  5. ^ "Phoebe Snow Chart History". Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  6. ^ Abdella, Fred T. (July 2, 1989). "Singing Her Way Back to the Top". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 280. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  8. ^ Shewey, Don. "The Blues of Phoebe Snow". Don Shewey. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (October 21, 1983). "Things Are Looking Up Again for Phoebe Snow". The New York Times. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  10. ^ a b c d North, Steve (May 3, 2011). "Remembering my friend, Phoebe Snow" (obituary). Jewish Morning Journal.
  11. ^ Nash, Margo (June 22, 2003). "Still Singing, Still a Fan of Trains". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  12. ^ "Named for a Train, Phoebe Snow Is on the Right Track". People. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  13. ^ "Phoebe Snow, 'Poetry Man' Singer, Dies". Billboard. April 26, 2011.
  14. ^ "Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
  15. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 511. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  16. ^ Himes, Geoffrey (May 1, 1998). "Phoebe Snow I Can't Complain House of Blues/Platinum". Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  17. ^ "Music: Throwing in the Crying Towel". Time. May 1, 1989. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011.
  18. ^ Pareles, Jon (June 5, 1989). "Review/Television; The Pop World Wrestles With 'Our Common Future'". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Dunphy, Dw (January 27, 2011). "Listmania: Popdose's Favorite "SNL" Sketches". Popdose. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  20. ^ "Roseanne: Episode 221 & 222 – Into That Good Night (part one and two)". Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  21. ^ O'Donnell, Lisa (September 1, 2011). "Ex-husband of Phoebe Snow leads a musical life out of the closet in Winston-Salem". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  22. ^ a b Friedman, Roger (March 22, 2007). "Saying goodbye to Valerie". Fox News Channel. Retrieved August 23, 2008.
  23. ^ Holden, Stephen (April 26, 2011). "Phoebe Snow, Bluesy Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 60". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  24. ^ "Phoebe Snow – Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Archived from the original on December 27, 2021. Retrieved December 27, 2021.
  25. ^ "Phoebe Snow – Chart History: Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Archived from the original on December 27, 2021. Retrieved December 27, 2021.
  26. ^ "Phoebe Snow – Chart History: Jazz Albums". Billboard. Archived from the original on December 27, 2021. Retrieved December 27, 2021.
  27. ^ a b "Gold and Platinum Awards". RIAA. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  28. ^ a b c "Phoebe Snow Songs • Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography • Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Music VF. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  29. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (June 1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits. Billboard Publications. ISBN 978-0823076932.
  30. ^ Whitburn, Joel (October 5, 2010). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Publications. ISBN 978-0823085545.
  31. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 782.
  32. ^ "Every AMR Top 100 Single in 1975". Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  33. ^ "Every ARIA Top 100 Single in 1989". Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  34. ^ RPM Vol 23 #8 (19 April 1975) "RPM Top Singles" p.32.
  35. ^ RPM Vol 24 #6 (4 October 1975) "RPM Top Singles" p.41.
  36. ^ RPM Vol 50 #7 (17 June 1989) "RPM100 Singles" p.6.
  37. ^ "The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Retrieved October 11, 2021.

External links[edit]