Song Lyric Sunday: Laura Nyro, “Stoned Soul Picnic”

Tomorrow, Clive Davis, record producer, president of Columbia Records, president and founder of Arista Records and J Records, turns 90, and Jim wants us to find "any song made by an artist or a band that he signed to his label, or one he produced."

While at Columbia Records in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, he signed a number of artists, including Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Janis Joplin, and Loggins & Messina, all of whom you might expect me to choose. Instead, I choose Laura Nyro, singer, pianist and songwriter extraordinaire. She’s written songs for hundreds of acts, including The Fifth Dimension, Blood Sweat & Tears, Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, and others. She never got the recognition as a singer and songwriter herself, which is a shame, because she had a great voice. She wrote "Stoned Soul Picnic" for her second album (and first on Columbia), 1968’s Eli And The Thirteenth Confession. Bones Howe, The Fifth Dimension’s producer, thought it would a good one for them to cover. They released it as the title track from their 1968 album, and it reached #3 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart, and it became a platinum record. Here’s Laura’s version.

[Intro]
Can you surry, can you picnic, whoa?
Can you surry, can you picnic?

[Verse 1]
Come on, come on and surry down to a stoned soul picnic
Surry down to a stoned soul picnic (Can you surry, can you picnic?)
There’ll be lots of time and wine
Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine
Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine
Stoned soul, stoned soul, whoa

[Verse 2]
Come on, come on and surry down to a stoned soul picnic
Surry down to a stoned soul picnic (Can you surry, can you picnic?)
Rain and sun come in again
And from the sky come the Lord and the lightning
And from the sky come the Lord and the lightning
Stoned soul, stoned soul
Surry on, soul

[Bridge]
Surry, surry, surry, surry
There’ll be trains of blossoms (There’ll be trains of blossoms)
There’ll be trains of music (There’ll be music)
There’ll be trains of trust, trains of golden dust
Come along and surry on, sweet trains of thought, surry on down
Can you surry, can you surry? (Can you surry?)

[Verse 3]
Surry down to a stoned soul picnic
Surry down to a stoned soul picnic (Can you surry, can you picnic?)
There’ll be lots of time and wine
Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine (Red yellow honey)
Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine, moonshine
Stoned soul, yeah
Surry on, soul

[Outro]
Surry, surry, surry, surry
Surry, surry, surry, surry
Surry, surry, surry, surry
Surry, surry, surry, …

One thing that isn’t clear is the meaning of the word "surry." Wikipedia tells us this…

The word surry, used frequently in the lyric (e.g. "Surry down to a stoned soul picnic"), is a neologism by Nyro; its meaning is unclear. The verb surry is spelled differently from the noun surrey (an old-time carriage). When asked by producer Charlie Calello what the word meant, Nyro told him, "Oh, it’s just a nice word." One possible meaning is that surry is a shortening of "let’s hurry."

"Just a nice word"… I like that.

That’s Song Lyric Sunday (and Song of the Day) for April 3, 2022.

14 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday: Laura Nyro, “Stoned Soul Picnic”

  1. She has a great voice. I never heard of her before and that’s a shame. It just shows how many talented people are out there that deserve more recognition.

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    1. It’s been a while for me, too. You don’t generally hear it on the radio. Sometimes you might catch it in a playlist, and there’s always YouTube, but it’s like you have to go looking for it.

      Like

  2. This song always makes me want to surry, although I don’t actually know what that means, but my guess is that it has something to do with sitting out on a grassy hill and smoking lots of marijuana.

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    1. She’s best known for her songwriting ability: she wrote “Eli’s Comin'” (Three Dog Night), “Hi De Ho” (BS&T), “Stoney End” (Barbra Streisand), and a bunch that were covered by The Fifth Dimension. She was a great performer and an outstanding songwriter.

      Liked by 1 person

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