And When I Die

Album: Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969)
Charted: 2

Songfacts®:

  • This was one of the first songs written by Laura Nyro, who was 17 when she wrote it. The song was first recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966. Nyro included it on her first album in 1967, More Than A New Discovery. Blood, Sweat & Tears, a nine-man group with a prominent horn section, covered it in 1969, and their version was the hit.

    Nyro never had much success recording her own songs, but wrote several hits for other artists, including "Eli's Coming" for Three Dog Night and "Sweet Blindness" for The 5th Dimension. She died of cancer in 1997.
  • This song is about death, but also about living, reflecting on our limited time on Earth and the futility in wasting that time worrying about what comes next. And when we die, another will be born to replace us.
  • The Laura Nyro connection to Blood, Sweat & Tears: she was dating their bass player Jimmy Fielder. In our interview with David Clayton-Thomas, who was the group's lead singer, he explained: "Laura used to come to our rehearsals and hang out. Sometimes she'd bring a pizza to the rehearsal place - we were just all pals, and we knew Laura's songs. Even before she got her recording career launched, she was one of the inner circle of people we hung out with."
  • This song hit #2 US on November 29, 1969. That week, two other songs written by Laura Nyro were also in the Top 10: "Wedding Bell Blues" by 5th Dimension (#3) and "Eli's Coming" by Three Dog Night (#10).
  • "And When I Die" was the third consecutive BS&T song to stall at #2 in the US. None of their songs ever hit the top spot, but they're in good company: Creedence Clearwater Revival had five #2 hits without a chart-topper.
  • Structurally, this is a very unusual song with no real chorus. The title is the first line in the song and also shows up at the end, but makes just these two appearances. By starting the song with the word "and," it implies picking up a conversation - probably a good one.
  • Alan Merrill, who with his group The Arrows wrote the hit "I Love Rock And Roll," was very close to Laura Nyro - his aunt married Laura's uncle. Merrill recalls: "I was in the room when Laura wrote that song and I told her to trash it. I told her it was 'morbid.' I was 15. Death was very distant and scary at the time. It was her first chart hit song, for Peter Paul & Mary. What did I know?"

Comments: 20

  • Rapcrapkilledgoodmusic from Wyckoff Heights, Bklyn.Please bring back Headphones. For earbuds sound like you want a can of Budweiser in your ears.
  • Irishcalifornian from Cali."I can swear there ain't no heavan, but I pray there ain't no hell" is probably the best lyric I have ever heard in the rock and roll era.
    I kind of live by that mantra.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyExactly fifty years today on November 23rd, 1969, Blood, Sweat, and Tears' "And When I Die"* peaked at #2 {for 1 week}, the week it was at #2,the #1 record for that week was "Come Together"/"Something" by The Beatles...
    The rest of the Top 10 on November 23rd, 1969:
    At #3. "Wedding Bell Blues"* by The 5th Dimension
    #4. "Take A Letter Marie" by R.B. Greaves
    #5. "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam
    #6. "Smile A Little Smile For Me" by The Flying Machine
    #7. "Leaving On A Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul and Mary
    #8. "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" by Stevie Wonder
    #9. "Down On The Corner"/"Fotunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
    #10. "Eli's Coming"* by Three Dog Night
    * As noted above, three of the records in the Top 10 were composed by Laura Nyro, "And When I Die", "Wedding Bell Blues", and "Eli's Coming"...
    May Ms. Nyro {1947 - 1997} R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 12th 1969, "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat, and Tears entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #50; and on November 23rd, 1969 it peaked at #2 {for 1 week}...
    It was BS&T's third straight release to peak at #2, it followed "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and "Spinning Wheel", and all three records each spent 13 weeks a piece on the Top 100...
    The week "And When I Die" was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "Come Together/Something" by the Beatles.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaThe LP version is better due to the instrumental breaks between chorus 1/verse 2 then verse 2/chorus 2. All it needed was a chorus 3.
  • Jeff from Beverly Hills, MaHow could a 17-year old write such enduring and profound lyrics? Laura was such a talented writer.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhOh, and I want to tip a hat and give a deep curtsy to the songwriter extraordinaire who is known as Miss Laura Nyro. Btw, the instrumentation in the background of this song really stands out when I play it on my ipod and listen to it with the earbuds.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhI've mentioned it with other songs, and will repeat here: 1969 was just a banner year for soo much music that was destined to become classic! This is just one of many examples. Blood, Sweat and Tears is a fabulous group with many great hits.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaBS&T's take form the fall of 1969 is a lot of fun. I'm listening to the long version on my mp3. The single contained two edit points between the refrains and 2nd and 3rd verses, the imaginative instrumentation.
  • Joni from Louisville, KyCould somebody please put Blood Sweat and Tears pictures on here instead of Elvis on the video screen?
  • Mike from Matawan, Nj"Laura, I saw you open in L.A., there's somethin' I gotta say, Laura...." Cool info Anne!! I didn't know that and I thought I knew everything about Todd.
  • Anne from Kerrville, Italythe song "baby, let's swing" by Todd Rundgren is about Laura ...he said after hearing her he started playing songs like her instead of the who
  • Anne from Kerrville, ItalyI totally agree w/ Jay from Brooklyn
  • Renee from Minneapolis, MnI'm with Jay on this one. Every time I listen to this song it definitely has a spiritual sort of vibe to it. Obviously Laura Nyro was wise far beyond her years to write something with so much depth and meaning to it.
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyAs far as I know, the Temptations never recorded "And When I Die", but if they had, it would have been incredible. Imagine how this would sound with David Ruffin singing lead and the others doing background harmonies.
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyI agree with Casey, but would like to add more. It's hard to belive that this song, which sounds like an African-American spiritual, was written by a 17 year-old Italian-Jewish girl from the Bronx. Whenever this is on the radio, I crank up the volume and shout it out.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI've never heard this song. Laura Niro was a great songwriter though. I've heard "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Eli's Comming", just not her versions.
  • Casey from Pensacola, FlIt's hard to believe this song was written by a 17 year-old. It just rings with an aged wisdom of someone who has figured out what is really important in life.
  • Daniel from Cincinnatti, Orwhy arent there more Blood Sweat and Tears songs on this site. I want to figure out what "House in the Country" is about
  • Mike from Ames, IaKept off the top of the charts by the Beatles'
    "Something / Come Together".
see more comments

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