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Melanie

Melanie and Beau
Background information
Birth name Melanie Anne Safka
Also known as Melanie
Born February 3, 1947 (1947-02-03) (age 62)
Origin United States
Genres Folk, Pop, County,
Occupations Singer, Songwriter, Musician
Instruments Singing, Guitar
Years active 1967 – Present
Website http://www.melaniesmusic.com

Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born February 3, 1947, in Astoria, New York City) is an American singer-songwriter.

Usually known professionally as Melanie, she is best known for her hits "Brand New Key", "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" and "What Have They Done To My Song Ma". Melanie has sold over 25 million records over the course of her career.

Contents

Early career

Melanie grew up in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York.[1]

She made her first public appearance at four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire, performing the song "Gimme a Little Kiss". Melanie was a student at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts when she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and signed her first recording contract.

Initially signed to Columbia Records in the United States, Melanie released two singles on the label. Subsequently she signed with Buddah Records and first found chart success in Europe when her 1969 song, "Bobo's Party", reached Number 1 in France. Her debut album received rave reviews from Billboard Magazine which heralded her voice as "... wise beyond her years. Her non-conformist approach to the selections on this LP make her a new talent to be reckoned with."

Later in 1969, Melanie had a hit in the Netherlands with "Beautiful People", before performing at the Woodstock Festival. The inspiration for her signature song, "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)", apparently arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set. A gospel-boosted genuine one-off that combined high drama with Melanie's trademark hippie sincerity, the recording became a hit in Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States in the spring and summer of 1970. The B-side of the single featured Melanie's spoken-word track "Candles in the Rain". "Lay Down" became Melanie's first Top Ten hit in America, peaking at #6 on the Billboard singles chart, and achieving worldwide success. Later hits included "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)" and a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday".

Melanie on the "Mr Softee" free stage.

In 1970, Melanie was the only artist to brave the court injunction banning the Powder Ridge Rock Festival, playing for the crowd on a homemade stage powered by Mister Softee trucks. Shortly following this performance, Melanie played at the Strawberry Fields Festival, held on August 7-9, 1970 at Mosport Park, Ontario. She also performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 where she was introduced by Keith Moon and received four standing ovations. Melanie was also the artist who sang to herald in the summer solstice at Glastonbury Fayre (later the Glastonbury Festival) in England in June 1971.

After leaving Buddah Records after they insisted that she produce albums on demand, Melanie formed her own label, Neighborhood Records, in 1971 with her producer/husband Peter Schekeryk.

It was on the Neighborhood label that Melanie had her biggest American hit, with the novelty-sounding 1972 number one, "Brand New Key" (often referred to as "The Roller Skate Song"). "Brand New Key" sold over three million copies worldwide and was featured in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights.

When first released, Brand New Key was banned by some radio stations due to the lyrics being interpreted as being sexual innuendo:

"I got a brand new pair of roller skates / You got a brand new key / I think that we should get together and try them out you see / I been looking around awhile / You got something for me / Oh! I got a brand new pair of roller skates / You got a brand new key. / I ride my bike, I roller skate, don't drive no car / Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far / For somebody who don't drive / I been all around the world / Some people say I've done alright for a girl..."

The follow-up single to "Brand New Key" was "Ring the Living Bell". To compete with this release, Melanie's former record company released "The Nickel Song" (a song she had recorded while still signed to Buddah). Both songs were simultaneous Top 40 hits while "Brand New Key" was still on the charts — setting a record for the first female performer to have three Top 40 hits concurrently. Melanie was awarded Billboard's #1 Top Female Vocalist for 1972.

She had another Top 40 hit single in 1973 with "Bitter Bad", a song that marked a slight departure from the hippie sentiments of earlier hits (with lyrics such as "If you do me wrong I'll put your first and last name in my rock n' roll song"). Other chart hits during this period were the self-penned "Together Alone" and a cover of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow".

Melanie has been awarded two gold albums (and a gold single for "Brand New Key") and three of her compositions were hits for The New Seekers. She is also well-known for her musical adaptations of children's songs, including "Alexander Beetle" and "Christopher Robin".

In 1973, Melanie started to retreat from the spotlight to begin a family. Her daughter Leilah was born that same year. When she became an official UNICEF ambassador in 1972, she agreed to forgo a world tour in favour of raising money for the organization.

Later career

In 1976 Melanie released one album on Atlantic Records, Photograph, which was overseen by Ahmet Ertegün. The album was praised by the New York Times as one of the year's best, although it was largely ignored by the public. It was re-issued on CD in 2005 with an additional disc of unreleased material.

In the 1980s the Quaker Oats Company used a version of "What Have They Done To My Song Ma" in their commercials for Instant Oatmeal with the revised lyrics "Look what they've done to my oatmeal". In 1989 she won an Emmy Award for writing the lyrics to "The First Time I Loved Forever", the theme song for the TV series Beauty and the Beast.

Melanie has, on average, released around one album a year since 1969. With one exception her albums have been produced by her husband, Peter Schekeryk. Her three children — Leilah, Jeordie and Beau-Jarred — are also musicians. Beau-Jarred is a guitarist and accompanies his mother on tour.

Melanie Safka in concert, February 2005.

Melanie's most recent album, Paled By Dimmer Light, was released in 2004. It was co-produced by Peter and Beau-Jarred Schekeryk and includes the songs "To Be The One", "Extraordinary", "Make It Work" and "I Tried To Die Young". In early 2005 most of Melanie's back-catalogue was re-released on the internet-only music label ItsAboutMusic.com. After a series of disagreements the relationship between the artist and the label was severed.

In 2007, Melanie was invited by Jarvis Cocker to perform at the Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Her sold-out performance received critical acclaim with The Independent claiming "it was hard to disagree that Melanie has earned her place alongside Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Marianne Faithfull in the pantheon of iconic female singers. Meltdown was all the better for her presence". The concert was filmed for a DVD entitled Melanie: For One Night Only which was released in October 2007.

She also recorded a song called "Psychotherapy", sung to the tune of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", which parodies aspects of Freudian psychoanalysis. It has been played on the Dr. Demento show.

Personal

Melanie identifies herself politically as a Libertarian, stating: "I'm a total Libertarian, and I am not a Democrat, a Socialist, or a Republican."[2] For a time, at the beginning of her career, Melanie was a follower of Meher Baba and this influenced some of her songs (such as "Love to Lose Again" and "Candles in the Rain"). Over time she became disenchanted with other followers and then disassociated herself from Meher Baba. In 2006 she underwent a life-altering experience with Mata Amritanandamayi or Amma (Mother) as she is also known, or as the "hugging saint" from India, which inspired Melanie to write "Motherhood Of Love", one of her more recent songs. Melanie currently resides in Nashville.

Cover versions

Many notable artists have covered Melanie's compositions:

Album discography

  1. Born to Be (aka My First Album), November 1968
  2. Melanie (aka Affectionately Melanie), December 1969 (US # 196)
  3. Candles in the Rain, September 1970 (US #17 - Gold record, U.K #5, Australia #2, Canada #5, Norway #20, Germany #16)
  4. Leftover Wine, November 1970 (US #33, U.K #22, Australia #8, Canada #22, Germany #31)
  5. R.P.M. (Revolutions Per Minute) (film soundtrack), 1970 (US #148)
  6. The Good Book, May 1971 (US #80, U.K #9, Australia #29, Canada #26, Norway #20, Germany #29)
  7. All the Right Noises (film soundtrack), August 1971
  8. Gather Me, December 1971 (US #15 - Gold record), U.K #14, Australia #9, Canada #14, Norway #25)
  9. Garden In The City, 1972 (US #115, U.K #19, Australia #38)
  10. The Four Sides of Melanie*, 1972 (US #103, U.K #23)
  11. Stoneground Words, November 1972 (US #70, Australia #69, Canada #34)
  12. Melanie at Carnegie Hall, 1973 (US #109)
  13. Please Love Me*, 1973 (US)
  14. Madrugada, May 1974 (US #192)
  15. As I See It Now, February 1975
  16. Sunset and Other Beginnings, October 1975
  17. Photograph, 1976 (Australia #84) (re-issued on CD as Photograph (Double Exposure) in 2005)
  18. Phonogenic - Not Just Another Pretty Face, September 1978
  19. Ballroom Streets, August 1979
  20. Arabesque, August 1982
  21. Seventh Wave, September 1983
  22. Am I Real or What, 1985
  23. Cowabonga - Never Turn Your Back on a Wave, April 1988
  24. Precious Cargo, 1991
  25. Silence Is King, February 1993
  26. Freedom Knows My Name, 1993 (US)
  27. Old Bitch Warrior, February 1996
  28. Recorded Live @ Borders, 1996
  29. These Nights, 2001
  30. Victim of the Moon 2002
  31. Crazy Love, 2002
  32. Moments from My Life, 2003
  33. Paled By Dimmer Light, 2004

(Albums marked with an asterisk are compilation albums)

Hit singles

Year Title U.S.
Billboard
U.S.
Cashbox
U.S.
AC
UK AUS CAN DNK IRL ZAF FRA NLD NOR DEU
1969 "Beautiful People" - - - - - - - - - - 9 - -
1970 "Bobo's Party" - - - - - - - - - 1 - - -
1970 "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" 6 3 - - 2 1 1 - - - 1 - -
1970 "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)" 32 20 - - 43 15 - - - - 6 - 47
1970 "Stop! I Don't Wanna Hear It Anymore" 112 - - - - - - - - - 10 - 43
1970 "Ruby Tuesday" 52 34 - 9 70 25 6 12 16 - - - 6
1971 "What Have They Done To My Song Ma" - - - 39 - - - - - - - 6 -
1971 "The Good Book" - 78 - - - - - - - - - - -
1971 "Brand New Key" 1 1 5 4 1 1 23 8 1 - 9 - 23
1972 "Ring the Living Bell" 31 21 18 - 74 24 41 - - - - - 41
1972 "The Nickel Song" 35 25 30 - 74 27 43 - - - - - 23
1972 "Someday I'll Be A Farmer" 106 79 - - 95 - - - - - - - -
1972 "Together Alone" 86 57 - - - 37 - - - - - - -
1973 "Do You Believe" 115 - - - - - - - - - - - -
1973 "Bitter Bad" 36 30 12 - 49 84 - - - - - - -
1974 "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" 82 54 42 37 93 90 - - - - - - -
1974 "Lover's Cross" 109 70 - - - 64 - - - - - - -
1981 "One More Try" 110 - - - - - - - - - - - -
1983 "Every Breath of the Way" - - - 70 - - - - - - - - -

The New Seekers also charted in the United States with their covers of Melanie's songs; "Beautiful People" hit #67, "Look What They've Done To My Song Ma" hit #14 and "Nickel Song" #81. Ray Charles' cover of "Look What They've Done To My Song Ma" hit #65 in 1972 (and #25 on the R&B Charts).

Other credits

References

  1. ^ Spelling, Ian. "Melanie's new songs lend their vigor to her old hits", North Jersey Entertainment Newspaper, October 12, 2007. Accessed December 20, 2007. "Born Melanie Safka in Astoria, N.Y., Melanie won over tens of thousands of fans at the legendary Woodstock concert..."
  2. ^ Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education

External links








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