‘Brand New Key’ Singer Melanie Dead at 76

    Melanie, the singer of ‘Brand New Key’ and ‘Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)’ who performed at the Woodstock festival in 1969, has died. The singer’s children – Leilah, Jeordie, and Beau Jarred – shared then news in a message on Facebook on Wednesday. A cause of death has not been disclosed. Melanie was 76 years old.

    Born in 1947 in Astoria, New York, Melanie studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and began her career singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village. She signed to Columbia Records in the US and released two singles on the label before signing with Buddah Records, which issued her debut album, Born to Be, in 1968. She first found chart success in Europe in 1969 with ‘Bobo’s Party’, which reached No. 1 in France. She was one of only three solo female artists who performed at Woodstock, an experience that inspired her first hit in America, ‘Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)’.

    “I had never performed in front of so many people in my life,” she told Rolling Stone in 1989. “I was just thrown into it, and I had my first out-of-body experience. I was terrified, I had to leave. I started walking across that bridge to the stage, and I just left my body, going to a side, higher view. I watched myself walk onto the stage, sit down and sing a couple of lines. And when I felt it was safe, I came back. It started to rain right before I went on. Ravi Shankar had just finished up his performance, and the announcer said that if you lit candles, it would help to keep the rain away. By the time I finished my set, the whole hillside was a mass of little flickering lights. I guess that’s one of the reasons I came back to my body.”

    Melanie went on to start her own label, Neighborhood Records. She continued releasing records throughout her career, including Ballroom Streets (1978), Arabesque (1982), Am I Real Or What (1985), Precious Cargo (1991), Old Bitch Warrior (1995), and Ever Since You Never Heard Of Me (2010). Earlier this month, she was in the studio working on a compilation of covers called Second Hand Smoke, which would have marked her 32nd studio LP.

    “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!” Leilah, Jeordie, and Beau Jarred wrote in their statement, continuing:

    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.” The cause of death has not been disclosed.

    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.

    We ask tonight, Wednesday January 24th, at 10pm central time, each of you lights a candle in honor of Melanie. Raise, raise them high, high up again. Illuminate the darkness, and let us all be connected in remembrance of the extraordinary woman who was wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to so very many people.

    We are planning a Celebration of Life for Mom and it will be open to all of you who want to come and celebrate her. The details will be announced as soon as they are in place. We look forward to seeing you there.

    At this time please allow us, her family, privacy as we grieve for her, remember her, and figure out how to navigate this crazy world without her.

    Thank you all for your love – you meant so very much to her.

    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis is a writer, journalist, and music editor at Our Culture. His work has also appeared in Pitchfork, GIGsoup, and other publications. He currently lives in Athens, Greece.

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