Our Top 10 Phoebe Snow Songs list presents the best Phoebe Snow Songs including “Poetry Man,” “Gone At Last.” and many more. Born as Phoebe Ann Laub on July 17, 1960, New York City’s gift to the music industry was best known for her signature hit singles, “Poetry Man” and “Harpo’s Blues.” Phoebe Snow was noted for her ability to perform a blues-style growl with a vocal range that could span over four octaves. In addition to her career as a singer-songwriter, she was also a favorite pick among advertisers to sing jingles for various commercials such as General Foods, Salon Selectives, and Stouffer’s.
In addition to her vocal talent, Snow was also an accomplished guitarist. All this musical talent seemed to be inevitable as she was brought up in a household that favored listening to the genres of blues, classical, folk, and jazz. There was also a heavy influence of popular show tunes. Although born in New York City, Snow was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, and graduated from its high school in 1968. She later attended college in Illinois but had a preference to pursue music as a career option instead. This included adopting the stage name of Phoebe Snow, the name of a fictional character that was displayed in the old ads of Lackawanna and Western Railroad.
In 1972, while Phoebe Snow was performing as a singer, along with her Martin 000-18 acoustic guitar, she captured the attention of Denny Cordell. He was the co-owner of Shelter Records who took it upon himself to sign her to the record label. Snow’s eponymous album was released in 1974 that featured guest performances from a collection of popular artists at the time, including David Brombert and Dave Mason. It became one of the best-selling and notably acclaimed albums in the United States of the year.
From it, “Poetry Man” became Snow’s signature single that played an instrumental role in her nomination for a 1975 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Although she lost to Marvin Hamlisch, she still earned her place as a highly favored music star. She performed as the opening act for Jackson Browne and Paul Simon at the time which also included her singing backup for Simon for 1975’s “Gone at Last,” as well as “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Both of these songs are featured on Simon’s 1975 award-winning solo album, Still Crazy After All These Years.
1975 was a big year for Phoebe Snow as her gifted vocals not only won solid fan appeal among the listening audience but earned her a series of appearances on Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, Snow’s success as a recording artist and television personality in 1975 met with legal issues with Shelter Records. As a result, she jumped over to Columbia Records before releasing Second Childhood as her second studio album.
With its collection of jazzier recordings, the album became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) within the same year it was released, which was 1976. Her third album, It Looks Like Snow, leaned closer to the rock and roll. It was also released in 1976. From there, Snow recorded and released two more studio albums with Columbia Records, namely 1977’s Never Letting Go and 1978’s Against the Grain.
For Snow, the ability to effectively balance the role as a mother with a prolific recording career was just too much to handle. It had to be one or the other. She did tour extensively in 1979 between provinces of Canada and the United States of America before signing up with Mirage Records in 1981. The album, Rock Away, was a recording that presented a minor hit for Snow, “Games.”
Phoebe Snow TV
Filling in the gaps as a vocalist recording and releasing studio albums, Phoebe Snow was often contracted to perform jingles for a number of commercial advertisements. She did this as a means to financially support herself and her daughter. It was also Phoebe Snow who recorded the theme song to the first season of the 1982 television series, 9 to 5, before Dolly Parton’s vocals took it over for the rest of the show’s run. Snow later sang the theme song for A Different World during its first season in 1987.
Throughout the 1990s, she made a number of appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show and was a favorite pick to sing live during star-studded events and televised specials. When the run of Roseanne came to an end, it was Phoebe Snow’s vocals that performed a cappella style during the final moments of the series’ final episode. In 1983, an article from the Rolling Stone Record Guide described Phoebe Snow as a woman possessing one of the most gifted voices in her generation that could do anything.
Phoebe Snow Legacy
From 1975 until 1978, Phoebe Snow was at the peak of her career as a recording artist. While married to Phil Kearns at this time, she had a daughter that was born with severe brain damage. Opting not to institutionalize her only daughter, she opted to care for her on her own. Valerie Rose Kearns died at the age of thirty-one years old on March 19, 2007. On January 19, 2010, Phoebe Snow experienced cerebral hemorrhaging before slipping into a coma.
On April 26, 2011, she passed away at the age of sixty years old in Edison, New Jersey. She recorded and released her eleventh album in 2003, Natural Wonder, via Eagle Records. Posthumously, 2008’s Live was released by Verve Records. In addition to these twelve recordings are four compilation albums. The legacy Phoebe Snow has left behind also has eighteen singles to her credit as a solo artist, as well as thirty-nine singles featuring her as a guest vocalist or on backup.
Top 10 Phoebe Snow Songs
#10 – 9 to 5
Although not released as a single by Phoebe Snow, “9 to 5” was a song she sang that was played during the first season of the 1982 television series of the same title. It was inspired by the 1980 movie, 9 to 5, which starred Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin. For Parton, “9 to 5” was a number one hit single on the US Billboard Hot 100, the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, and the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
The series version starred Parton’s younger sister, Rachel Dennison, replacing her in the role of Doralee Rhodes. Tomlin’s role was recast to Violet Newstead while Fonda’s role first went to Valerie Curtin. During the first season, the show’s theme song was the recording made by Phoebe Snow. The first season of the show was filmed before a live audience before switching the format to videotape.
While Snow’s cover of “9 to 5” may not have scored as a hit single for the singer-songwriter, it did illustrate the woman’s vocal talent as a remarkable performer that could bring that little something extra to any song that could just as easily pass as her own.
# 9 – A Different World Theme Song
A Different World was a spinoff series from The Cosby Show that enjoyed a solid run on NBC from 1987 until 1993. In the first season, it starred Lisa Bonet as her character, Denise Huxtable, who moved out of the Cosby household to attend college. From the second season onward, Jasmine Guy starred as Whitley Gilbert-Wayne and Kadeem Hardison as Dwayne Cleophus Wayne. Also in the first season, Phoebe Snow’s vocals to the theme song of A Different World served as its inspirational opening. Just like the show, the theme song also underwent changes to its format.
# 8 – Ancient Places, Sacred Lands
In 1983, The Gift of the Sacred Dog was the tenth episode of the Reading Rainbow series. The song, “Ancient Places, Sacred Lands” was lyrically performed by Phoebe Snow. The episode’s storyline focused on the book that was written by Paul Goble. Phoebe Snow’s vocal talent was nothing short of amazing as she musically shared a list of infamous locations that still continues to serve as a highlight of American history and culture that should never be forgotten.
#7 – Harpo’s Blues
Released in 1974 as a single, “Harpo’s Blues” became a number twenty hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. Not only was Phoebe Snow an incredible singer but also had a guitar talent that was truly breathtaking. This acoustic number remains an easy-listening favorite that still continues to be a lounge singer’s song of choice to entertain the audience in a relaxing environment that seems to shut out the rest of the world and its troubles.
#6 – If I Can Just Get Through the Night
On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, “If I Can Just Get Through the Night” became a number thirteen hit after it was released as a single in 1989. In Canada, it peaked as high as number sixty-three while it became a number eighty-five hit on in Australia. This remarkable ballad featured Phoebe Snow’s vocal talent as timeless, once again illustrating why she was such a favorite in the entertainment industry. Whether it was recording and releasing albums as a solo artist or working with various television studios to perform theme songs or jingles, Snow’s growly blues lyrical style was unmistakable.
#4 – Every Night
Paul McCartney’s “Every Night” was covered as a single by Phoebe Snow in 1979 and it became a number thirty-seven hit on the Official UK Singles Chart. It made its best chart impression in New Zealand as a number six hit and it peaked as high as number twenty-two in Australia. As a heartfelt song looking at a difficult relationship facing a breakup, a more experienced and mature Phoebe Snow laid out a vocal performance as if it was her own.
#3 – Dreams I Dream (featuring Dave Mason)
The duet, “Dreams I Dream” was performed by Phoebe Snow and Dave Mason as a single in 1988. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, it peaked as high as number eleven. Mason’s album, Two Hearts, was a 1987 release that featured this song as one of two hit singles that appeared on the easy-listening charts of the official American music chart. “Something in the Heart” was the other, which became a number twenty-four hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. As for “Dreams I Dream,” this song became a real gem among romantics as Dave Mason’s lyrical performance was beautifully matched with Snow’s talent as this number’s guest vocalist.
#2 – Gone at Last (with Paul Simon)
Although Phoebe Snow sang back up for Paul Simon’s “Gone at Last” her vocal talent was still recognizable enough for fans to notice. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number twenty-three. Although not intended to serve as a gospel number, this rock classic became a fan favorite among some of the members of the Christian community that has since adopted this as part of their roster of worship songs.
Thankful for overcoming troubled times, this served as a piano-heavy song of appreciation and hope as the narrator opts to leave the past behind him as he looks ahead to a brighter future. Although Paul Simon was an excellent solo artist, the beauty behind Snow’s voice elevated this song to a certain level that turned it into something special.
#1 – Poetry Man
On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, as well as the Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary, “Poetry Man” became a number one hit for Phoebe Snow after it was released as a single in 1974. It peaked as high as number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number twenty-eight in New Zealand. What became Snow’s signature song was a jazzier number compared to the otherwise acoustic, guitar-heavy music she was better known for.
This single did earn Snow a Grammy Award nomination in 1975 for Best New Artist but that win went to Marvin Hamlisch instead. For Snow, the song was written during a time when the innocence of youth dictated the lighthearted romantic tale as she admitted she was involved with a married man.
Top 10 Phoebe Snow Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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