Phoebe Snow Has Died

I was deeply saddened to hear that Phoebe Snow died today.  She was 60.  Here’s UPI’s account:

NEW YORK, April 26 (UPI) — Recording artist Phoebe Snow died in her native New York Tuesday from complications of a massive stroke she suffered last year, her manager said.

The author of more than 100 songs is best known for her 1975 hits, “Poetry Man” and “Harpo’s Blues.”

Some of her other songs include “Gone at Last,” “Shakey Ground,” “Every Night,” “Games,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Dreams I Dream,” “If I Can Just Get Through the Night” and “Something Real.”

Snow put her career on the back burner for years while she cared for her daughter, Valerie, who was born severely brain damaged. Valerie died in 2007 at the age of 31.

“[Phoebe Snow] fought for almost a year-and-a-half to come back, enduring bouts of blood clots, pneumonia, and congestive heart failure, each time coming out of it, until her body finally could take it no more,” her manager, Sue Cameron, told CNN Tuesday.

At the time of her January 2010 stroke, Snow had recently recorded new songs and planned a series of live concerts, Cameron said.

I met Phoebe shortly after Valerie died and found her to be one of the warmest, most sensitive, and perceptive people I had ever encountered.  I remember talking about how life is full of hellos and good byes.

Most remember Phoebe Snow for her mellow, soft melodies, like “Poetry Man”.  But she was much more than that.  In a 1975 Rolling Stone cover story, Robert Palmer writes:

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

But just listen to her voice, they were whispering excitedly to each other, it’s, like, incredible.  And it was-a natural wonder of a voice, soaring as high as Minnie Riperton’s and descending to a butch quasi-bass, capable of apparently infinite textural variation, from the gauziest of wisps to the balkiest of bellows, an obvious once-in-a-generation voice from the first note and an astoundingly artless-sounding voice as well.  Leaping one and two octaves, floating through difficult chord patterns and hitting the most difficult intervals smack on target suddenly sounded as easy as singing “Frere Jacques” in grade school.

Plus, as Caroline Kennedy was heard to remark after Phoebe’s one-night stand at New York’s Bottom Line, “She was real.”  Somehow, after breeding hordes of singers who could only equate soul with blackface travesties of old blues or new R&B, suburbia had finally produced an honest soul style all its own.  Phoebe sang with a gripping emotional intensity and she didn’t have to ape black mannerisms to do it.  It seemed to come naturally and how did she pull it off?



But the world would not hear Phoebe Snow’s voice for long:

When Valerie was born with major complications and at the height of Snow’s fame, Snow decided to dedicate the majority of her time caring for her rather than pursuing her blossoming music career.  A major life and career decision – caring for Valerie would take up every last ounce of her energy.  What could have been an easy ride had turned into a lifetime of frustrating struggle driven by unconditional love.

A year after “Poetry Man” was recorded, Phoebe gave birth to a daughter, Valerie Rose, who was severely brain-damaged.  Her husband split from her soon after the baby was born.  But at a time when many disabled children were sent to institutions, she decided to keep her daughter at home and care for the child herself.

“She was my universe,” Snow tells me on a rare good day, when she’s not experiencing eight-hour crying sessions or stomping her feet on the floor and demanding her daughter back.  “She was the nucleus of everything.  I used to wonder, am I missing something?  No.  I had such a sublime, transcendent experience with my child.  She had fulfilled every profound love and intimacy and desire I could have ever dreamed of.”



Further Reading:


What to do with Leftover Easter Ham? Try this Amazing Pasta Sauce

Sugo di Piselli, Prosciutto Cotto, e Panna

Pasta Sauce with Peas, Ham, and Cream, in the style of Emilia-Romagna

Photo Courtesy Divine Domesticity



This Easter I made an All-American holiday brunch for my sister, nephew (the creator of this website), and his lovely new wife Liz.  We feasted on ham with an orange-Dijon glaze, scalloped potatoes, fresh fruit drowned in Moscato, and gargantuan homemade cinnamon rolls.

Of course we had lots of leftovers, especially ham.  With fresh early peas now finding their way into farmers’ markets, what better way to enjoy leftover ham than Sugo di Piselli, Prosciutto Cotto, e Panna [Pasta Sauce with Peas, Ham, and Cream]?

One glance at the ingredients and you quickly surmise this pasta dish is from Emilia-Romagna.  Very rich and bursting with flavor, the sauce traditionally welcomes the spring season.  And it’s easy to make!

If you’re not able to find fresh peas, you can always substitute frozen early peas.  You can use either fresh or dried pasta — see the suggested shapes below.


  • 2 pounds fresh early peas (in their pods) OR 1 cup frozen early peas (thawed)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus additional 1 tablespoon to mix with the pasta
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup ham, chopped into matchsticks ¼ inch wide
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, freshly grinded
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated


Making the Sauce

  1. If you’re using fresh peas, shell from their pods; soak in cold water for five minutes, then drain.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan on medium high heat, add the peas and ¼ cup of water.  When it reaches the boiling point, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes then add salt.  Continue cooking until the peas are tender.  The time needed to reach tenderness can vary wildly, depending on the freshness of the peas, and how young they are.
  4. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of the butter on medium in a large skillet and sauté the onion until it becomes lightly golden. (If you are using frozen peas, begin the recipe at this point, using four tablespoons of butter to sauté the onion).  Add the ham and stir for about a minute.
  5. If using frozen peas, add them to the skillet after the onion is golden and the ham has been added.  If using fresh peas, add to the sautéed onion and ham, then cook an additional five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the cream and grind fresh black pepper liberally.  Turn the heat up to high (don’t worry, if the cream is fresh it will never curdle), stir frequently and let reduce to a fairly dense consistency.
  7. Boil and drain the pasta.  Swirl a tablespoon of butter into the pasta, then toss with the sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Suggested Pasta

Garganelli (photo courtesy Federico Stevanin)


  • The most traditional pasta for this sauce is fresh garganelli, although dried garganelli also works well
  • Other fresh pasta suitable for this sauce include fettuccine or tagliatelle
  • Dried pastas for this sauce include conchiglie [shells], penne, or maccheroncini



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