Melanie at The Kate on 2/14/15
My sister, Billie, and I were obsessed with Melanie. We knew all the words to Brand New Key and Lay Down (Candles in the Rain). We liked her version of Ruby Tuesday better than Mick’s. And we loved her look: those big doe eyes, her bangs, the flower child maxi dresses. We even started our own singing group (the Daffodils!) inspired by her (Billie has the voice, I can’t carry a tune). We were too young for Woodstock, but we were surrounded by hippies, patchouli, and love beads in our hometown of Cambridge, MA. When I heard Melanie was coming to The Kate I snapped up tickets. And when I was offered an opportunity for an interview, I jumped at it. In the middle of this week’s snowstorm, and on the eve of Melanie’s birthday, I rang her up. She was EXACTLY what I expected: that slightly raspy voice, with a hint of a New York accent, and so lovely, humble and somehow familiar. Hope to see you at the Kate on 2/14. Click here for tickets.
Ten Things You Might Not Know About Melanie:
1. She had an out-of-body experience at Woodstock and she was not on drugs!
Nobody expected that 400,000 people would convene at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm for three days of peace and music. Melanie, a virtual unknown before her ground-breaking performance, says the magnitude of Woodstock matched her personal experience.
2. Lighting matches, lighters and (now) cell phones at concerts started with Melanie.
Melanie took the stage after Ravi Shankar. It was 11pm, dark and raining. Candles were passed through the crowd. As they were lit, the lyrics for Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), Melanie’s Woodstock-inspired hit, formed in her mind. At subsequent performances, the audience would light candles to signify that they were at Woodstock. After Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) shot to #6 on the charts, the lighting of matches and lighters at concerts became an international phenomenon.
3. We coveted her flower child look, but she was extremely shy and insecure about her appearance (she referred to herself as “zaftig” in my interview!).
4. She loves Miley Cyrus.
Many, many singers have covered and made hits of her songs over the years. Recently, Miley recorded Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma (watch the video at the bottom of this post. It’s beautiful; Miley has redeemed herself in my eyes). Melanie is working with Miley on the song for an upcoming movie and is impressed with her humor, smarts and talent (and texting ability!).
5. She’s not sure what happened to women’s lib and feminism.
The current crop of female singers are overtly sexual, all about spectacle, and less about talent. She worries that pop music caters to a lower common denominator and artists are overlooked for celebrities.
6. She never made a penny from Woodstock.
7. She doesn’t mind belting out “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates and you’ve got a brand new key” for the zillionth time.
Melanie has written, literally, thousands of songs and is happy to roll out her big hits for her audience. While I have this vision of Melanie sitting on the floor, cross-legged with her babies around her, strumming her guitar and singing Alexander Beetle, she never left the spotlight. She has continued to perform and write songs throughout her career, bringing her entire family with her on tour.
8. All three of her children followed in her footsteps and her son, Beau-Jarred, accompanies her on tour and is a self-taught classical and flamenco guitarist.
9. She’s used to being called the female Bob Dylan, but doubts if he’s ever been called the male Melanie.
Melanie attributes the comparison to the fact that they were both singer/songwriters during a time when most songwriters did not record their own songs. The genre of “singer/songwriter” developed in the sixties and seventies.
10. Her last name is Safka.
tags: melanie, katharine hepburn theater, the kate, woodstock