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Sunday, Apr 30, 2017

Players honor the greatest songwriter you’ve probably never heard of

The 1960s and ’70s were an iconic time for rock ’n’ roll. From the British Invasion and glam rockers to punks and the Grateful Dead, there truly was something for everyone. In the mix of it all, Laura Nyro, a talented poet, singer and songwriter from New York City, seemed to fall between the cracks.

According to close friends, Nyro wouldn’t sacrifice her style to fit a certain label. She played the piano and integrated sounds from gospel, Broadway show tunes, jazz, R&B and folk rock. Tori Amos and Elton John both have credited her as an influence.

Throughout Nyro’s career, her singing remained too unconventional for the mainstream, forming a cult following for her nine studio albums, but her songwriting is what gave her a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Running now through Friday, the Carrollwood Players Theatre are having a “performance with music” to tell Nyro’s story. The show features original songs by Nyro, as well as others written by her that gained notoriety sung by artists such as Barbra Streisand and Three Dog Night. There is also a story narration by Nyro’s father.

Many of her original songs were covered by other musicians, including “Stoney End” by Barbara Streisand, “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat and Tears and “Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night, which all went to the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Yet on her own none of her singles went far.

“Nobody knows her story,” says Barry Silber, writer and director of the Carrollwood performance called “And A World To Carry On (Laura Nyro Remembered).” “She never wanted to be a superstar.”

Silber first heard Nyro’s music in 1969, when soul band The 5th Dimension covered her song, “Wedding Blue Bells.” Since then, Sibler was hooked on her music, which he says has a “street smart sound.” Sibler has a great admiration for her voice but admits that the success that other artists received from her songwriting is how she will be remembered. The singer died of ovarian cancer in 1997, four years after she recorded her last album, “Walk the Dog and Light the Light.”

“People will walk out of this show and say ‘I never knew she wrote that or I never knew she did that song,’ ” says Silber.

The show’s opening night was Thursday, and proceeds will benefit WMNF 88.5. There will be food and drinks available for purchase and a Q&A after the show. Tickets are limited to seating and are $20. Purchase in advance at carrollwoodplayers.org.

The Carrollwood Players Theater is located at 433 Gunn Highway in Tampa.

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