Melanie Safka, the American singer-songwriter known as Melanie, who had a worldwide hit with Brand New Key, has died at the age of 76.
Her children Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred announced her death on social media, describing her as “one of the most talented, strong and passionate women of this time, and every word she wrote, every note she sang reflected that.” “. A cause of death was not given.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Melanie made her breakthrough in the late 1960s after gaining a foothold in the folk clubs of New York's Greenwich Village. In keeping with the boom in singer-songwriters, her bright but husky voice appealed to both pop fans and the counterculture, and she was signed to the Buddah label, which released her debut album, Born to Be, in 1968. She had her first success in Europe with the album reaching the top 10 in France and the Netherlands.
She was one of only three solo women, along with Janis Joplin and Joan Baez, to perform at the Woodstock festival in 1969 – “an incredibly frightening day,” she later said. “I never felt like I was a hippie, I didn’t like the term. If anything, I was the beat generation – the people in the Village who expressed themselves in so many ways and weren't pigeonholed.”
She demonstrated her vocal range with the gospel-tinged single Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), a US Top 10 hit – inspired by the sight of the Woodstock crowd lighting candles – and the accompanying album Candles in the Rain from 1970 It attracted wider attention and reached number 5 in the UK. Their version of the Rolling Stones' “Ruby Tuesday” was also a British hit that year, and a concert at New York's Carnegie Hall was recorded for a successful live album.Appearance in 2015. Photo: Bobby Bank/WireImage
But 1971 would be their biggest year yet, with the album Gather Me and lead single Brand New Key. With its carefree and upbeat rhythm, sparkling accompaniment and Melanie's mellifluous nursery rhyme melodies, it had enormous appeal across all generations, although its lyrics about roller-skating seemed to be a metaphor for sexual experimentation. “I guess a key and a lock have always been Freudian symbols,” she said, “and pretty obvious ones at that. There was no serious expression behind the song, but people read something into it.” It reached number 1 in the US, Canada and Australia and reached the top 5 in the UK; A cover version with various farming-related lyrics by comedy group The Wurzels, The Combine Harvester, reached No. 1 in the UK in 1976.
“Brand New Key” would be her last major hit, although she returned to the UK Top 40 with her rendition of the '60s pop standard “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” in 1973. Melanie continued to release a steady stream of albums, eventually totaling 28, most recently 2010's Ever Since You Never Heard of Me. She developed a cult following that included notable musicians such as Morrissey, who covered her “Gather Me” song Some Say (I Got Devil), and Jarvis Cocker, who brought her on stage in London in 2007.
In 1968 she married Peter Schekeryk, who was also the producer of all of her major releases. They had three children together and their marriage lasted until his death in 2010.