On the poignant title track of her critically acclaimed third album, New York Tendaberry, Bronx-born singer/songwriter/pianist Laura Nyro regards her hometown through "silver tears," a place that draws her back again and again. "You look like a city, but you feel like a religion to me," she sings.
Nyro described the album in a 1969 interview with Down Beat magazine: "It is not an obvious one... not one that you really even listen to, because it really goes past your ears and it's very sensory and it's all feel... it goes inside, like at the back of your neck, or something. It's abstract, it's unobvious and yet I feel that it's very true. I feel that it's life, what life is to me anyway."
What the heck is a tendaberry, anyway? Nyro, who had an affinity for making up her own words (asking folks to "surry down to a stoned soul picnic" in the 1968 hit "Stoned Soul Picnic") explained: "Tendaberry is my own word, it's an essence, it's not death... it's birth and it's very tender, very fragile, very strong, very true... it's a berry, a tendaberry."
Nyro, who co-produced the album with engineer Roy Halee, contacted Miles Davis' arranger Gil Evans to arrange the album, but he never answered her letter. Instead, she turned to Jimmie Haskell, who worked on Bobbie Gentry's Ode to Billie Joe and Simon & Garfunkel's Old Friends (and, later, Bridge Over Troubled Water). Before she met with Haskell, she told Down Beat: "We'll sit and talk until he knows as much as he can possibly know of what I feel and where this album has to be. I know that he's there already, because on Bobbie Gentry's album he creates the delta, and it's syrupy, and you can almost hear the crickets and bugs. And on Old Friends he really captured the right mood... he can do that. I don't want him to write like Gil Evans, I'm not going to ask him to give me a Gil Evans sound or anything like that... all I want him to give me is this tendaberry."
This was the B-side to the album's second single, "Save The Country," which became a hit for The 5th Dimension in 1970.
Jazz musician Billy Childs covered this on his 2014 tribute album, Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro.