Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Summer of Love: Melanie
I saw her on television at least once, but I don't remember when or where.
Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk, known professionally only by her first name, Melanie, was the model for every young girl with long dark hair and a nylon-string guitar, or at least that's how it was at MY high school. Her first hit in the USA was (probably) "Beautiful People" in 1969, when she suggested that kindred spirits wear identical buttons, presumedly to find each other in a crowd. She had performed at Woodstock, and wrote "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" in 1970 to commemorate three days of camping out in mud and rain, eating bad food, and having bad drug trips. Someone's idea of a dawning civilization, I suppose. But while for some it was a mere benchmark for the popular culture, she appeared to take its purported message to heart. In the clip above, she performs the song with The Edwin Hawkins Singers.
Melanie had gained quite a cult following by the early 1970s. Her lyrics could be quite clever, as in the 1972 "Brand New Key," which was banned from some radio stations for alleged 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..."). It wasn't banned in Cincinnati, though, so it couldn't have been that bad. She also wrote "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma" in 1972. It was the kind of ditty that would adapt as easily to a Broadway show tunes environment as to her own. Maybe that's why Quaker Oats used a version of it for a commercial in the 1980s. Then again, maybe it was a response to her label, Buddah Records. When they tried to turn her into a hit factory, she bolted and started her own label. In the years that followed, she was a fundraiser for UNICEF, and took time out to raise a family like normal people do. Her three children are all musicians, and her son Beau-Jarred currently performs with her. A petition is now circulating to have her inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And she still looks like beautiful people, eh?
Meanwhile, look what they've done to her song...