Choices of the Heart

There’s a special place in my heart for celebrities who put their families first.

We’re always so oversaturated with news and photos of celebrities who are strung out on the crack that is fame, often talentless individuals who do almost anything to be photographed and written about. The tractor beam of the spotlight must be hard to resist. But while Britney Spears, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and innumerable other celebrities always seem to be busy partying or creating a media sensation instead of spending time with their children, there are a few who leave the spotlight behind when it becomes necessary.

Anita Baker was huge in the Eighties and early Nineties, then abandoned fame to care for her elderly parents. And to be honest, I had never heard of Phoebe Snow until I read Roger Friedman’s lovingly written article about her daughter who just passed (scroll down on that link, it’s the second article). But her story touched me so much that I had to write about it.

Phoebe Snow was 23 years old when Valerie was born. Let’s say that she was as big as Norah Jones, Joss Stone, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and two dozen other female pop stars all rolled into one. She had a huge hit, called “Poetry Man.” She had a monster self-titled album. She was the voice of her generation. You can see pictures of her with other stars of the time on her Web site. She was going to be the next big thing, a jazz, pop and R&B singer of singular magnitude.

And then Valerie was born.

As Phoebe remembers it, everyone told her to have Valerie institutionalized. They said she wouldn’t live very long. For a minute, Phoebe gave in. But then she came out of her shock, and reclaimed her child. By then, she owed her record company, Columbia, albums and money. She would never “recoup” as they say. She would always be in debt. She missed sessions and fought with record executives. She wouldn’t tour because she felt she shouldn’t leave Valerie. She declared bankruptcy.”

The story becomes more heartbreaking as it goes on.

The entertainment industry is always fickle and cruel, and planning a comeback didn’t jibe with raising her daughter. She stayed by her child’s side for 31 years, far longer than her baby was expected to survive.

Friedman points out an essential truth, which is what compelled me to write about this: “No matter how Phoebe Snow operated in the music business, it was never her priority. That was always Valerie. It’s hard to imagine someone giving up a career like that today, and sacrificing themselves for their child. That’s what Phoebe Snow did for her daughter.

That’s the power of love.

I hope now that Valerie is at peace, Phoebe continues to share her gift with the world. I found this beautiful clip of her singing her big hit Poetry Man with the beautiful Belgian afrobellas of Zap Mama. It’s my jam of the day.

If you’ve been caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, today might be a great day to take the time to let your family and friends know how much they mean to you. In fact, I’m about to call Mama Bella right now.

Have a beautiful weekend, bellas!

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Comments

  1. jerseybred says:

    What a beautiful story, if more people (not just celebs) focused on what really matters, life would easy.

  2. Great story Bella. Truly inspirational. Her voice was lovely and it had depth that many of the “artists” today don’t have. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

  3. girl, i love Phoebe Snow. her voice just does it for me.

  4. I remember when Phoebe Snow was singing hit songs with that warm, unique voice she has. To learn that she continued to put her daughter first shows us what an unparalleled testament to love she chose to express in her life. Above all else.

    Thank you for this post.

  5. OMG I LOOOVE Zap Mama!

    And I LOOOVE Phoebe Snow!

    How old are you that you never heard of her? Am I that old??? I was a little girl when she was big but dang!

    Anyway, I am sorry for the loss of her daughter.

  6. I’m just 28, Nichelle! Just turned, too. I feel old sometimes, and I am fascinated by our history… but I’m still just a baby in the grand scheme of things

    =)

    Or at least, I feel like one.
    And I thought it was weird that I’d never heard of her, too. I am obsessed with the music of her era. Zap Mama is awesome! Definitely future Afrobellas of the Week!

  7. Pheobe’s story really touches a deep part of my heart and soul. How beautiful and sad in the same moment. I know Valerie is at peace

  8. I love this post B, Choices of the Heart. Your recommendation to call up your family and friends and let them know how much you care about them is right on. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs “Do You Realize” by the Flaming Lips.

    This probably isn’t the right place, but I have a personal rant that kind of ties into these kinds of decisions. I could never vote for John Edwards given his decision to continue with his presidential campaign despite his wife being diagnosed with cancer. Certainly, it’s a personal decision that they’ve made together, but John, get your priorities straight!! Campaigning takes hustling on the road 24/7. Give it up and cherish the time together with your wife man.

    Props to Phoebe. I hadn’t heard of her either, but that’s probably due to her knowing what’s up. Phoebe can live in peace knowing she did the right thing.

  9. AndSoThen says:

    ahhhh thank you for reminding me of Phoebe Snow. I was on a roll with Minnie Riperton this weekend..do you know of her? We have always been blessed with lovely ladies of song..Phyliss Hyman., Angela Bofill..Blessed.
    Music for our lives…

  10. I love & miss you!

  11. Thank you for the lovely background on Phoebe Snow. She is a very under appreciated artist. The video was from my posting on Youtube…wacmpr for those interested. That performance was unrehearsed and unplanned until the day of the taping in 1998. Zap Mama had never seen this footage until now. The contacted me wishing to receive a copy of this and the 3 other songs they did. Of course I said yes and sent them DVDs of it. Anyone interested can view the other songs by Zap Mama on my channel. You have a wonderful website and thanks again for linking my video. Bill

  12. Wow I feel so blessed to have heard about her at a young age, when my very young mother who was so into music in the 70′s played her to death. I have since then picked up where my mother left off and started collecting vinyl of my own and most are songs that I grew up listening to with my mom, her breakout self titled debut being one of them, I just wish I had a good quality copy, mine is slightly damaged but I still listen to it anyway!!!!

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