(On an Obscure Artist known as Margo Guryan)
Born in the late 1930s, in New York, United States, Margo Guryan is an American songwriter/artist whose style of Baroque Pop music resonates in the music of many contemporary Indie/Twee Pop bands like Club 8 and Camera Obscura.
Her Music in the Past
Guryan got to release only one proper full-length studio album, which contains melodic, sunny, and poppy songs which in today’s standards could easily be classified as Twee Pop—cutesy Indie Pop music often sung by female vocalists and whose song structures are simple but whose instrumentations are very melodically textured. The musicians credited in Guryan’s album were John Hill (guitars), Kirk Hamilton (bass and flute), Phil Bodner (oboe), Paul Griffin (keyboards), and Buddy Saltzman (drums). Guryan has written also songs for and collaborated with many fellow artists whom included Cass Elliot, Glen Campbell, and Astrud Gilberto; but on her own as a performer, she released only one album, apparently because she didn’t like the pressures and the compromises that involved in being a public performer especially when it came to touring.
One notable song off her only album was “Someone I Know,” for which Guryan used as a guide to write a background contrapuntal melody the 10th movement (popularly known as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”) of Bach’s cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (‘Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life’), BWV 147, which Bach wrote in 1716.
Her Music in the Present
To this day, Guryan remains active in the music industry as a songwriter and lyricist, albeit not prolifically. So far, the only recently new personal material she released was the single “16 Words” with B-side “Yes I Am” (2007), which are both politically charged songs. Guryan’s penchant for Baroque music is still apparent in the sound of these songs.
In 2001, Oglio Records released 25 Demos, a compilation of Guryan’s recorded demos of songs she wrote for other artists. Furthermore, in 2009, the same record label released the album The Chopsticks Variations, which showcased Guryan as a Classical pianist (She was Classically trained as a child, majoring in piano). The album features Guryan’s 14 variations of the popular Classical piece “The Celebrated Chop Waltz” (better known as “Chopsticks”), originally written in 1877 by the British composer Euphemia Allen under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli (Yes, Allen was a female).
Guryan’s Influence on Twee Pop
Having listened to the music of Guryan and being familiar with many bands whose music may be classified as Indie Pop or Twee Pop, I could say that Guryan’s music resonates in the musical styles of many contemporary Indie Pop bands, especially those sung by female vocalists; the likes of the Scottish band Camera Obscura and the Swedish band Club 8 come to mind.
I’m sharing a personal message to me of Guryan herself. Friends of Facebook, I sent her a copy of this article as soon as I finished it and she replied with this.
Thanks so much for sending me your article. Except for my birthday (Wikipedia has it wrong!) and your saying that I used Bach’s “Jesu…” as a melody, all seems OK.
(I only used the Bach piece as a background. I wrote a counterpoint to that piece and then used the counterpoint as the melody. It was the only way to make sure that it fit note for note.)
What will your book involve? It sounds interesting. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. I was glad to see that you think I’ve influenced other writers…and though I haven’t been able to listen to your examples, I will!