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Singer Melanie, Who Performed at Woodstock and Had Hits Such as “Brand New Key,” Dies at 76

Singer Melanie, who performed at Woodstock in 1969 and had hits in the 1970s with “Brand New Key” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” died Tuesday. She was 76.

Her children — Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred — shared the news in a Facebook post on Wednesday. The cause of death is unknown, though her reps mentioned an “illness” in their own statement.

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“This is the hardest post for us to write, and there are so many things we want to say, first, and there’s no easy way except to say it… Mom passed, peacefully, out of this world and into the next on January, 23rd, 2024,” her children wrote.

They asked fans to light a candle at 10 p.m. Central time on Wednesday to remember their mom.

“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,” they wrote. “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, whose full name was Melanie Safka, was recently working on a new record featuring cover songs. The album, titled Second Hand Smoke, would have been her 32nd album, said her label, Cleopatra.

Melanie was 22 when she performed at Woodstock. She told the AP in 2019 that she was nervous about performing before hundreds of thousands of people at the music festival, which also featured the likes of Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. She said she waited hours to perform as her anxiety kept growing.

“The terror kept building in me,” she said. “The thought of me performing in front of all of those people and that huge stage — I was all by myself. Then it started to rain and I truly believed that everyone was going to get up and go home. It’s raining, I’m free, I’ll go back to life as it was. Maybe I will be an archaeologist; maybe I will join the Peace Corps. That’s when they said, ‘You’re next.’”

Born Feb. 3, 1947, in Astoria, New York, Melanie studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts while pursuing her singing career. She booked gigs at coffee houses and folk clubs in Greenwich Village. In 1967, she met her future manager, producer and husband, Peter Schekeryk.

She signed with Columbia Records and released two singles, “Beautiful People” and “Garden in the City,” but when Clive Davis declined to allow her to record an album, according to her reps, she left the label for Buddah Records, which released her debut LP. But it was Woodstock that gave her her big breakthrough.

“Lay Down” was her first U.S. hit, followed by “Peace Will Come,” “What Have They Done to My Song Ma,” “The Nickel Song” and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.” In 1971, Billboard named her the year’s biggest-selling female artist in the U.S.

She went on to form her own label, Neighborhood Records, which was the the first female-owned independent label in rock history, according to her reps. “Brand New Key,” her first single for Neighborhood, topped charts around the world. The song was introduced to new audiences several years ago via an ad for HP printers.

Melanie became a spokesperson for UNICEF and continued recording albums regularly until the death of her husband in 2010. However, she frequently teamed with her children to perform live and to record and produce home concert specials for the Internet.

Her new album of covers includes a version of Morrissey’s “Ouija Board Ouija Board” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” among others.

Read her children’s full post below.

A message from Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred

Dear Ones,

This is the hardest post for us to write, and there are so many things we want to say, first, and there’s no easy way except to say it… Mom passed, peacefully, out of this world and into the next on January, 23rd, 2024.

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.

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.

Love and Peace,

Leilah, Jeordie, and Beau Jarred

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