Folk Legend Melanie Passes Away

26 January 2024 | 2:03 pm | Stephen Green

Original Woodstock performer and female music pioneer Melanie Safka died on January 23


Melanie (Supplied)

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The news of Melanie’s death was broken in a social media post from her children Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred.

It read: “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.”

Melanie was a 60s folk pioneer, best known as one of only three solo females to play the original Woodstock at just 22 years old. She had two massive global hits Brand New Key and Laydown (Candles In The Rain). She said the iconic Laydown was inspired by her Woodstock performance, looking out over the crowd and seeing people lighting candles as it started to rain.

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The song was given a second life here in Australia with a cover in 1995 by Max Sharam which hit the Australian top 40. Australia again helped revive another Melanie hit when her 1972 single People In The Front Row was sampled for The Hilltop Hoods’ massive hit The Nosebleed Section in 2003.

Melanie also founded Neighbourhood Records, reported to be the first record label with a female founder after rebelling against her former label for insisting she produce albums on demand. Always a non-conformist and free spirit, Melanie defied court orders to perform at the banned Powder Ridge Rock Festival in 1970 and disregarded radio bans on her big hit Brand New Key due to supposed ‘suggestive’ lyrics. The hit had a second run in 1997 when it was featured in the film Boogie Nights.

Safkra remained a musician to the end, releasing an incredible twenty-eight studio albums over her five decade career, with her final album Ever Since You Never Heard of Me dropping in 2010. At the time of her death, she was reportedly working on an album of covers entitled Second Hand Smoke.