One of the “Beautiful” people of the 60’s & 70’s died unexpectedly died on January 23rd. No cause was given.
The announcement was made by her three children Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred. They posted the following message:
We are heartbroken, but want to thank each and every one of you for the affection you have for our Mother, and to tell you that she loved all of you so much! She was one of the most talented, strong and passionate women of the era and every word she wrote, every note she sang reflected that. Our world is much dimmer, the colors of a dreary, rainy Tennessee pale with her absence today, but we know that she is still here, smiling down on all of us, on all of you, from the stars.
Melanie Safka first made a mark for herself as a folk singer, but never really fit in with the folk crowd. “It wasn’t the age of smiling women,” she said. “It had to be much more broody and I was way too cherubic. Men can be cute. Randy Newman can sing ‘Short People’ and that’s OK because he’s a guy, he’s got something to say. But a girl? How could she possibly have any social significance?”
Despite not feeling that she fit in, Melanie first got attention performing in folk clubs in Greenwich Village. That led to her becoming popular here in Philadelphia playing at the Main Point and at Temple. Her popularity grew enough to be invited to perform at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 despite not having a hit record.
The experience of performing before that massive crowd and the rain that showered the people was the basis for her first big hit record. “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” performed with the Edwin Hawkins gospel group reached number 6 on the charts in 1970. Burning candles during her live shows was part pf her act for about a year after the hit. The practice ended when fire departments started to forbid it.
This was followed by other top ten hits, but the one that reached number one was a song that took some flack from several circles. “Brand New Key” was considered a silly, childish song that was full of sexual innuendo.
Melanie admitted that “It became the bane of my existence for a few years”. Despite the childlike approach, she claimed that she wrote it as a blues song that was sped up to make it sound more commercial. It worked, but it almost destroyed her career.
Melanie was still very active at the time of her death. She was not only doing concerts and interviews, but was finishing up a new album with cover songs called SECOND HAND SMOKE. The first single from the album a Morrissey song called “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” was scheduled for release just days before she died. Melanie was 76.