Margo Guryan, 1960s Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 84

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The musician and composer’s 1968 debut Take a Picture had an unexpected resurgence in popularity in the 1990s and 2000s

Margo Guryan
Margo Guryan, photo courtesy of Sundazed Music

Margo Guryan, the singer-songwriter and composer best known for her 1968 debut Take a Picture, has died, as Buzz Bands LA was first to report. Jay Millar of Sundazed Music, which has reissued Guryan’s work, told Pitchfork that the musician died on Monday, November 8, of natural causes at her home surrounded by family. Margo Guryan was 84 years old.

Margo Guryan grew up in Far Rockaway, New York, born to parents who played the piano. Guryan has said she began to take piano lessons when she was 6 years old, and she eventually studied music at Boston University.

In 1958, Guryan made her debut as a songwriter when Atlantic Records released jazz singer Chris Connor’s performance of “Moon Ride.” By the early ’60s, Guryan landed higher profile credits, with Harry Belafonte singing her “I’m on My Way to Saturday,” and Dizzy Gillespie performing her “This Lovely Feeling.” And, in the late 1960s, Spanky and Our Gang recorded Guryan’s most notable song, “Sunday Mornin’.”

Guryan released her own version of “Sunday Morning” on her debut album Take a Picture. The record also featured a song called “Think of Rain,” which Guryan said was inspired by the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” She recalled in 2018, “When I got home I put my newly-purchased record [Pet Sounds] on; I listened to all the songs but returned to ‘God Only Knows,’ which I played over and over again. Then I turned off the record player, sat down at my Wurlitzer, and wrote ‘Think of Rain’… the first song I wrote in that style.”

Guryan largely receded from the public eye after Take a Picture, as she did not want to be a touring musician, but her music was rediscovered in the ’90s and 2000s. “For years, I didn’t listen to the songs, or play the album. Something like that becomes part of your past and you just accept it,” she told the Los Angeles Times, “Then we get a royalty check from Japan. And we find out [copies of Take a Picture] are drawing exorbitant prices on eBay.”

The resurgence in popularity led to Franklin Castle Recordings’ 2001 release of the collection 25 Demos. The compilation, as well as Take a Picture, have since been reissued numerous times.

In 2018, Frank Ocean played the 25 Demos track “I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You” during a Christmas episode of Blonded Radio. Saint Etienne, who released a cover of the Guryan song in 2010, tweeted, “We’re very sad to hear that Margo Guryan has passed away…. Margo came to see us backstage in LA once, and she was just as lovely as you’d expect.”

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