It was her look on the Woodstock competition in upstate New York in August 1969 that helped propel Melanie Safka to stardom. Performing as Melanie, she had already launched two albums, which had not created a lot of a stir, aside from giving her a chart-topping single in France with Bobo’s Get together, however Woodstock allowed her to catch the wind of countercultural change sweeping the US.
“I had by no means carried out in entrance of so many individuals in my life,” she advised Rolling Stone. “I used to be simply thrown into it, and I had my first out-of-body expertise.”
The sight of the half-million-strong crowd lighting candles impressed her to put in writing Lay Down (Candles within the Rain), from her third album, Candles within the Rain, launched a couple of months later in 1970. This was a rousing soul-gospel anthem that includes the Edwin Hawkins Singers, and gave her a US Prime 10 hit single. It was additionally a splendid commercial for the vary and uncooked energy of her voice, demonstrating that Melanie, who has died aged 76, was removed from the wispy people singer the press had tended to pigeonhole her as.
The Candles within the Rain album was a combination of unique materials and intensely felt cowl variations of James Taylor’s Carolina in My Thoughts and the Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday (the latter a UK Prime 10 hit), and reached 17 within the US and 5 on the British chart.
There was additional proof of Melanie’s vary and ambition within the considerably Kurt Weill-ish tune What Have They Performed to My Track Ma, partly sung in French. It grew to become certainly one of her trademark items, reaching the UK Prime 40 and provoking cowl variations by quite a few artists together with Nina Simone, Ray Charles and the New Seekers.
She scored her greatest hit in 1971 with Model New Key, which topped the US chart and reached No 4 in Britain en path to promoting 3m copies worldwide. The refrain of “I’ve acquired a model new pair of roller-skates, you’ve acquired a model new key” proved irresistibly catchy, although the tune was banned on some US radio stations, who suspected it of being some form of sexual innuendo.
The tune was additionally notable for its use of a piano specifically ready with tacks, garments pegs and paperclips to supply its distinctive tinkling sound. Nevertheless, Melanie had blended emotions in regards to the tune, saying it “doomed me to be cute the remainder of my life”.
She was born within the Astoria district of Queens, New York, and grew up in Lengthy Department, New Jersey. Her father, Frederick Safka, was Ukrainian, whereas her mom, Pauline (nee Altomare), a jazz singer, got here from an Italian background. Her mother and father separated when Melanie was 5, and she or he was raised by her mom, who inspired her to sing. She received her first expertise contest when she was 4.
“I grew up listening to quite a lot of blues and jazz, like Billie Vacation,” she recalled. “I found Kurt Weill and Edith Piaf in my mid-teens. I believe my complete fashion of singing started with a dream to sound like Lotte Lenya.”
Melanie attended Lengthy Department highschool, and started acting at 16, at venues such because the Inkwell espresso home. After working away briefly to California, she returned to New Jersey and enrolled at Crimson Financial institution highschool, graduating in 1966. She took appearing courses on the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, whereas additionally singing in Greenwich Village golf equipment.
Her entry to the recording trade occurred by likelihood, when she had been for an appearing audition on Broadway. She had introduced a guitar along with her, and caught the attention of an worker of the music publishers Hugo & Luigi. She was invited to carry out her songs, and impressed the producer Peter Schekeryk, who coincidentally was Ukraine-born. He grew to become not solely her producer but in addition her husband and father of their three kids.
They made some demo recordings, which prompted Clive Davis to signal her to Columbia Information. Nevertheless, he was not solely satisfied and allowed the Buddah label to purchase her out of her contract. It was they who launched her debut album Born to Be in late 1968, with critics discovering it fascinating however stylistically unfocused. She took a step ahead with the follow-up, Affectionately Melanie, which was adopted by the quantum leap of Candles within the Rain.
After Woodstock, she made additional appearances in 1970 on the Powder Ridge rock competition in Connecticut (an occasion that went forward in defiance of a courtroom injunction), the Strawberry Fields competition in Toronto, and the Isle of Wight competition, the place she was launched by the Who’s Keith Moon. She would return to the Isle of Wight in 2010. In 1971 she sang on the Glastonbury honest, the forerunner of the Glastonbury competition, at which she would carry out in 2011, marking the fortieth anniversary of the unique occasion.
The 1971 album, Collect Me, which featured Model New Key, went Prime 20 on either side of the Atlantic. It was additionally the primary album launched on the Neighbourhood label, based by Melanie and her husband, and it produced one other US Prime 40 hit single with Ring the Residing Bell. In the meantime her former label, Buddah, launched The Nickel Track (recorded whereas Melanie was nonetheless signed to them), and it additionally reached the Prime 40. Her last Prime 40 entry was Bitter Dangerous (1973).
She now started to dedicate extra time to her household, although would proceed to launch each dwell and studio albums at common intervals.
In 1989 she acquired an Emmy award for her lyrics to the tune The First Time I Beloved Eternally, the theme from the TV collection Magnificence and the Beast. In 2007, she received rave opinions for her efficiency on the Meltdown competition on the South Financial institution in London, curated by Jarvis Cocker.
Peter died in 2010, and in 2012 she wrote the music for a stage musical about him, Melanie and the Report Man. This was staged on the Blackfriars theatre in Rochester, New York. She had lately been engaged on an album of canopy variations entitled Second Hand Smoke.
She is survived by two daughters, Leilah and Jeordie, and a son, Beau.