Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Phil Ramone: He Kept Phoebe Snow from Being “Gone at Last”


There are a lot of good stories about Phil Ramone and all the stars he recorded. There are some coming in now on Twitter, and more to be told this week. One story not in his book which we had recently discussed was about the late Phoebe Snow. We were reminiscing about Phoebe, both in agreement that she had had tbe single best voice of her generation. Phoebe’s life changed after having a huge debut album in 1974, self-titled, and a follow up that was so-so. At that point she’d given birth to daughter Valerie, who had multiple defects. Her career–artistically and financially–was a mess.

Phil recorded Phoebe’s third album, “It Feels Like Snow.” Valerie’s picture is on the cover. Phil created a couple of Phoebe’s standards on it, including a remake of “Teach Me Tonight” that stands as a towering recording. He knew she was a jazz singer, even if she railed against it. A year later, Phil was making “Still Crazy After All These Years” with Paul Simon. Bette Midler was supposed to sing on a track called “Gone at Last.” But either Atlantic, her label, wouldn’t give her permission, or something else went wrong.

Phoebe, meantime, was bankrupt and sinking under the weight of raising Valerie on her own. “I saved her,” Phil told me. “It was lucky that it worked out.” He convinced Paul to put Phoebe on “Gone at Last.” The result was a hit single And it bought Phoebe some more time to care for Valerie at home.

Hard to believe–now they are all gone–Phoebe, Valerie, and Phil. I know that Phoebe is driving Phil crazy right now, probably about making another record.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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