Gonna Take a Miracle was recorded by the earthy goddess Laura Nyro and soulful power trio Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash - aka Labelle - in a hurried, yet magical, one-week recording session in the throes of a 1971 Philadelphia summer heat of an album of Nyro's favorite "teenage heartbeat songs."
But just how did a little white Midwestern girl born in 1979 come into contact with such an eclectic album, pray tell? Well, I have my mother to thank for bestowing this precious gem upon me, as my mind has woven the family memories surrounding the whole album into the very fiber of my being.
So many nights as my mother and two sisters went about our daily lives, the deafening silence of our home would suddenly be broken with the album's opening track, and from all corners of the house, the background vocals would materialize. We would appear from our various hiding places to share in 34 minutes of joyful singing and dancing. I've always felt like this album was a little-known treasure to be protected, as if the very nature of it, so gentle and heartfelt, had to be sheltered from the world.
Originally recorded by the Royalettes in 1965, that version of Gonna Take A Miracle is outstanding in its own right, but comes across as a wee bit detached by comparison to the Nyro/Labelle version, which transports us between shock, loss and anger as we mourn the ending of a romantic relationship, and then come finally to moments of hope - either for reconciliation or the strength to carry on despite the dire situation at hand.
It begins by being blindsided by a lover leaving, never suspecting that something was wrong. At first she wallows in her sadness, but builds to frustration (Now I know I can’t get through to you / I promise I will show you how much you’re turning me around, destroying me / I’ll never be the same anymore!)
As if surprised by this outburst, she then follows with an almost apologetic plea (You must realize, you took your love and left me quite by surprise / I could have told you that it’s gonna take a miracle… to love someone new when I’m crazy for you), completing the full circle of emotions that goes along with grieving a failed relationship.
The sense of desperation and sadness is so deeply explored; yet again, faith in true love has been tested and failed. There’s not much more that crosses generations and races like knowing what it’s like to have your heart ripped out and fed to you, yes?