Margo Guryan

Published on May 10th, 2021

Margo Guryan

Margo Guryan

by Abel Folgar

If you’ve ever sang or hummed along to Freda Payne’sLonely Woman,Harry Belafonte’sI’m On My Way to Saturday,” or Anita O’Day’sI Want to Sing a Song” – you’ve been touched by the genius of Margo Guryan.

Now in her early 80’s, Guryan was a classical musician with extensive training in jazz who fell backwards into pop music after an introduction to the Beach Boys’ song “God Only Knows” on 1966’s Pet Sounds album. The intro, credited to her friend and jazz musician Dave Frishberg, sent Guryan down a new path of creativity she felt was not happening in jazz at the time.

Her newfound work in pop as a lyricist, songwriter, composer and arranger resonated with April-Blackwood, Columbia Records’ publishing arm. There, her career would take off, penning a number of hits recorded by Bobby Sherman, Julie London, Oliver and Carmen McRae, among others, as well as working with producer and future husband, David Rosner.

In 1968, her sole full-length, Take a Picture, a flawless album of dreamy sunshine and baroque pop, led by her infectious single “Sunday Morning,” was released by Bell Records. Full of jazzy touches and airiness, the album’s tone is perfectly captured by the cover photograph of Guryan’s Mona Lisa-smile as she looks through a rain-drizzled window.

“Initially I didn’t so much as fall in love with the piano,” she says of her early training. “It was my parents who made me do it and I eventually ended up with Jaki Byard, a great teacher who I loved.”

It can be argued that her album should’ve been an international hit and that singing some of the songs that made others famous would make her a household name. But refusing to tour due to her dislike of the music business’ throngs of middlemen and ownership over artists – travails she witnessed during her first marriage to a jazz musician, effectively ceased label support.

Her stepson, Jonathan Rosner, a seasoned music publisher and co-founder of Waterslide Music, says Guryan’s little bit of orneriness has been a lifelong trait. And while she wasn’t propelled into the stardom her talent commanded, she’s lived her life on her own terms and created the music she wanted to create.

“Music resonated the most for me with the jazz of the late 50’s through the 60’s and the mid- to late-60’s pop,” she said about the fluctuating tastes in popular music during her lifetime. Since the early aughts, a series of Demos albums have surfaced, introducing new fans and rekindling older ones with a larger and varied catalog of her music.

In the summer of 2020, Vinyl Me Please, a record of the month club, pressed the first vinyl reissue of Take a Picture. Most recently, watchmaker TAG Heuer and Porsche featured her song, “Someone I Know,” in a commercial for their Carrera Chronograph collaboration. Shedding some of that tough skin, Guryan confesses, “I’m happy with the releases, the exposure and the new fans I’ve gained. I love my new fans!”

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