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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