I have a lot that I want to say about the passing of Phoebe Snow. But I don’t have time to truly do it justice. So I’ll just state my intentions and hope they resonate with you. I want to talk about how listening to her makes me feel closer to my father, because without him, I may not have known who she was. One of my best memories with him is listening to “Poetry Man” for the first time, as he drove me around. At the time, I was constantly plagued by this idea that I didn’t know him well enough. All my knowledge felt superficial. Like, I knew him to be a fan of doo wop, R&B, and funk. I knew he likes Earth, Wind, and Fire and The Whispers. But watching him reflectively listen to this quiet song of longing gave me insight into a part of his character to which I’d never been exposed.
I want to talk also about how I just learned today that, while her career was at its peak, Snow gave birth to a daughter with severe brain damage and paused that career to care for her. When her daughter died four years ago, she started to perform again, as a kind of catharsis. But within three years, she too would experience brain trauma; she hemorrhaged in January of last year. As a relatively new mother who’s also at the genesis of a productive writing career, I can’t imagine how different life would be if my daughter hadn’t been born healthy and cognitively independent.
What wonderful mothering. What enduring song.
Rest in peace, Mother Snow.