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Melanie

No talent who came out of Woodstock and who continued actively performing more than a quarter century later remained as closely associated with the 1960s and "flower power" than Melanie. Born Melanie Safka in Astoria, Queens, in 1947, she made her first public appearance at age four on a radio show, later studying at the New York Academy of Fine Arts. After mounting a singing career while in college, she later sang in clubs in Greenwich Village, and was signed to a publishing contract in 1967. She recorded her first single, "Beautiful People," for Columbia Records that same year. Her relationship with the record company was short-lived, however, and after one more single she left the label.

In 1969, she chanced to meet producer Peter Schekeryk, and after a hastily arranged audition, he took charge of her career. Her first album, Born to Be, was recorded and released by Buddah later that same year. On August 16, Melanie took the stage at the Woodstock Music & Art Festival in Bethel, New York; her song "Birthday of the Sun" was later released on the Woodstock 2 album, and 20 years later it was released on video as part of Woodstock: The Lost Performances, alongside the work of Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the Who.

Soon afterward, she cut her second album, Affectionately, which did slightly better than her first; however, her commercial breakthrough came 11 months after Woodstock, when she released the song "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," recorded with the Edwin Hawkins Singers. The song, written as a tribute to the audience at Woodstock and displaying the feel of a gospel hymn, rose to number six on the U.S. charts, while the accompanying LP, entitled Candles in the Rain, reached the Top 20.

After 1970's Leftover Wine, a live album recorded at a Carnegie Hall concert, she issued a plaintive version of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday." In January of 1971, Melanie's own version of "What Have They Done to My Song, Ma," a recent smash for the New Seekers, got to number 39 in Britain, where she emerged as a major star. In March, however, her new release, The Good Book, peaked on the U.S. charts at just number 80, despite the presence of several impressive tracks, among them a hauntingly beautiful cover of Phil Ochs' prophetic, doom-laden self-eulogy, "Chords of Fame."

At around this time, Melanie rebelled against her contract with Buddah, which required her to supply albums more or less on demand -- she'd had four LPs released in half as many years, and wanted more control over her work and career. With help from Schekeryk, whom she had married, she organized her own label, Neighborhood Records, during the summer of 1971. Her first subsequent single, "Brand New Key" hit number one on the U.S. charts while on its way to becoming a million seller; thanks to its not-so-subtle sexual undertones, the song became a kind of "in" dirty joke in some circles, and was even censored on some radio stations, but it also made Melanie one of the top-selling artists of the year 1971.

The accompanying album, Gather Me, was the best produced long-player she had ever released, and reached a chart position of number 15, earning a gold record in the process. This huge success prompted Buddah to release Garden in the City, consisting of previously unreleased outtakes. At the same time that 1971's Gather Me spawned the single "Ring the Living Bell," Buddah decided to capitalize more directly on Melanie's catalog and released "The Nickel Song"; the presence of two singles in release simultaneously from two different labels and distributors -- each competing for radio play and listener dollars -- damaged both releases, and they effectively canceled each other out.

Garden in the City rose to number 19, but her next new album on Neighborhood, Stoneground Words, only got to number 70 late in 1972. In June of 1973, her double-concert album, At Carnegie Hall, recorded the previous year, didn't even make the Top 100. By this time, Melanie had withdrawn from the stage, and was devoting her time to more personal and domestic concerns, having the first of three children in as many years. She re-emerged in 1974 for a short series of concerts, but her new album of that period, Madrugada, barely made it on to the charts, and her subsequent two LPs, As I See It Now and Sunset and Other Beginnings, released in 1975, barely sold. Neighborhood Records was later closed down.

A year later, Photograph was released to lackluster sales on Atlantic; the follow-up, Phonogenic, also failed to chart, and her last album for the next five years, Ballroom Streets, appeared on the Tomato label in 1977. In 1982, Melanie cut a comeback album, Arabesque, for RCA; a year later, her single "Every Breath of the Way" scraped the middle of the British charts and led to a series of concerts in England. Neighborhood was soon reactivated just long enough for Melanie to release one last album, Seventh Wave.

At the end of the 1980s, she re-emerged once again with her theme music for the popular television series Beauty and the Beast. By that time, Woodstock nostalgia was beginning to be stoked by the media and concert promoters, and Melanie appeared at one of the 20th anniversary events. She continued to periodically perform at clubs in the United States and larger festivals in Europe, where her association with the 1960s made her a major draw, and every so often released an album of new songs or re-recordings of her classic numbers. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

haven't heard music, music, music for a long time great song
t
found out yesterday morning on the radio that she was gonna be in concert last night, and right near our house in FL !! WOO HOO !! called my 19 y.o. daughter, she was overjoyed. Momma brought her babies up on fine music.... Melanie, Joni, Dylan.... the concert was great. my first Melanie concert was in 1973 in Central Park, and many more since. she is a national treasure. thank you Melanie for making my world and my children's world a better place.
she was one of my B.F.F's as a child....My moms albums were my best friends..:)
Girls want to put a nickel in and want a Dollar song too
2660renee
watching Melanie Martinez on The Voice reminded me of Melanie...bo t h have very lovely, unique voices
poppyred65
She wrote some awesome lyrics. They were good for then and great for now
You played at the Midland Bar and Cafe in Basalt Colorado, 1988. My boyfriend owned that bar and just introduced me to you now. I think you are amazing and he misses you....hence him missing you...Ric loves your music and i thank him for showing me to you! (i am 21 years younger than him but still love your voice) Ric says up here on this mountain, and the people all around who say that I have been up here too long and want me to come down.... you know the rest. Wish you well! Karen&Ric!
Love her music, Love her style. It don't get better for an old hippie like me!
patsvalley
Melanie is playing tonight 6/2/12 in Woodstock, NY @ the Bearsville Theater.
cmyers3402
Her voice still has the energy and power of a 13 yr old. How could you not like her. Had no idea she was still performing.
tinalvsdogs
My future husband and I saw Melanie in New York's Central Park in 1968 and she was sensational. Lay Down, Lay Down, was one of her popular songs and was just right at that time to sing. It was the Viet Nam war and her songs were instrumental at that time along with Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. We have all her CD's and treasure the time we had together.
Saw Melanie at So. Fla. Folk Festival a few years back. She was accompanied by her son. Super fun set. Great back and forth with the audience. Would love it if she came back. I listen to "Lay Down" with the sound turned way, way up and the lights turned down. And "Psychothera p y " as well.
I love the innuendos of this song. It's simple innocence, yet sexual.
Not to mention the psychotic stalking. What a great song!
Man I wish I saw her. I was a kid but even in my 'kid-ness' I knew she was cool and special. If anyone has seen her in concert feel free to write more about it because i would love to read it.
jimharbin9
Saw her in concert in college. GREAT!! A Beauty inside and out!!!!
steven.canna d a y
Not only could she sing, but she was a babe in her day.
rsteinme
If you know where Melanie tours, please let me know.

rsteinme@ear t h l i n k . n e t
Yeah, I still get off on her music too! Old hippies never die!
marianschomp 4
Melanie is awesome and still tours. I am looking forward to seeing her very soon. Once a Melanie fan, always a Melanie fan.
Always wanted to 'Lay Down'with her
We lover her also
sean_mcclain
Yeah, JaneBirdhous e is correct, but we all know how long it takes for Pandora to respond. It'll never be fixed. Sorry Melanie.
janebirdhous e
Melanie with the Look Into My Eyes album is not Melanie Safka. Could you remove her from this list!
love her voice and originality. 'what have they done to my song ma' is one of my favorite songs of all time.
bswiss
I was lucky to see Melanie on stage at Monmouth College (1971). She had a few props, a stool, her guitar, a small clear bud vase with a flower, and the most beautiful voice I've ever experienced. What a wonderful memory!!!!
I was Melanie's tree surgeon during the 70's.She loves nature and all things living.She is very conscious of the ecology and was way ahead of her time.I hope she and Peter are both well and happy.
lpinkmountai n
"Let your white doves smile up at the ones who sit and frown."
songofsongz
Played her album over and over. Drove my mom crazy. Loved "When we grow old" among many others.
Melanie showed Judy and Joni and Janis what could be done.
blackbird798
Does anyone know about the song with the words "...so savor it and say good-bye to it. Don't hold on to any one moment. You've got to love it and then release it. Don't hold on to any one moment". Is it a Melanie song?
I always liked "I don't eat animals (and they don't eat me)"
t_ohlert
Anyone know the whereabouts of a song that Melanie recorded whose refrain goes, "Let me see something never seen before by the eyes of man. . ."?
flowerlandgc
Her music is timeless, her voice is so different from anyone else's...
she has never been appreciated and deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...her songs and voice will haunt your dreams...
Once a hippie child, always a hippie child. Lay Down is timeless classic.
love her!
I don't think Melanie will ever go out of style. I grew up with her music/
I love candles.. but even better is "Percieve", which Pandora doesn'e seem to have
I'll have to admit "Lay Down (Candles in the Wind)" is one of the finest bits-o-music these ears have ever heard. I've owned and listened to the lp for years and have always been amazed by this song. I listened to Lay Down the night of 9/11 and it greatly moved me. I was wishing that night that all Americans could hear that song for inspiration after what had happened earlier that day. I thank Melanie for her music, and wow, what a voice....... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p e a c e
saw her at Hippiefest 2008 a couple weeks ago, she was really good
onlytimm
Her voice always was magical to me. Crazy Love is great, I just don't get tired of listening to it.
kstoudt
she puts on a fantastic concert if you ever get to the chance to go, goooooooo
Incredibly underrated. Lay Down Candles in the Rain is one of the best records of all time, and her voice is transcendant .
Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) is one of the most vocally amazing tracks I have ever encountered. I heard it on one of those American Bandstand comps and it just blew my mind. This is the first time I have ever heard anything more about her. If you don't know that track, check it!

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