Interview by Dennis Morgillo

An Interview with Melanie Safka
By Dennis Morgillo

Melanie was the voice of a generation, often described as the female Bob Dylan. Her songs were recorded by Ray Charles, Cher, Miley Cyrus and many others. She had a #1 hit with ‘Brand New Key’ and sold millions of records.  She performed at Woodstock, Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and even the UN.

Madhouse: I love your music, and I just want to say thanks for the memories. 
Melanie: Great thank you for saying that. It really means a lot to me.

Madhouse: You grew up in NJ - can you tell us about your High School years?
Melanie: I went to long branch High School in NJ for 2 years but I hated it. I was an oddball and I did not want to be there so i ran away from home. I took a plane to California and I ended up in a girls detention home there. My father had to come and get me.  We agreed i would come back and go to Red Bank High School where i eventually graduated.
Madhouse: You were inducted into the Red Bank HS Hall of Fame . That must have been a great redemption for you?
Melanie: Yes it was, as I said, I was an oddball and I did not fit in. The principal hated me and he would not let me attend graduation. He thought i was a communist. 

Madhouse: How did it come to be that you were asked to play at Woodstock?
Melanie: Woodstock was an amazing event, I was an unknown at that time and my husband/producer Peter had an office in the same building as the Woodstock promotors. Artie Kornfeld just asked us and we said sure. 

Madhouse: Tell me about your travels to Woodstock?
Melanie: My mom drove me up to Woodstock. There was a lot of traffice, I thought there was an accident. I had no idea how big this was going to be. Finally we get to the staging site. It was a Motel and I walk in and there is Sly Stone, Janis Joplin is drinking Southern Comfort. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea. I thought it was going to be a nice little event, families with picnic blankets and that kind of thing.   

Madhouse: What was it like when you first realized it was a huge event?
Melanie: The staff told me to go to the helicopter. So I went with my Mom and my guitar. They would not let my Mom on , just performers and managers. So as we were lowering down onto the field I couldn’t fathom that it was all people down there. I said to myself I can’t do this. I can’t do this. 

Madhouse: What was the backstage area like?
Melanie: I remember sitting in a tent alone - i didn’t know anyone. There was a larger tent, the VIP where all the big stars were, but I do remember Joan Baez bringing me tea. The staff would come in and say, your next, then 5 minutes later come back and say never mind. 

Madhouse: Do you recall your feeling right before you went on? 
Melanie: I never performed for more than 500 before, and it was night time and it started to rain. So I thought Ok its raining, everyone will go home and I won’t have to do this. Then the staff came in and said its for real this time, you are on right after Ravi Shankar. I was in terror. 
Madhouse: Tell us what it was like when you first hit the stage?
Melanie: When i finally walked out there and started to sing, I was a witness to this massive candle lighting. It was dark and raining and a sea of 500,000 people lit candles and I was forever attached to the candle lighting.  It was a beautiful experience I will never forget and of course thats why I wrote the song ‘Candles in the Rain’.

Madhouse: Your concerts to this day are described as very moving and personal events?
Melanie: Yes that is my favorite part, I still love playing concerts. 

Live From Dennis' House is an eclectic mix of comedy and music...
The host and creator Dennis Morgillo combines his encyclopedic knowledge of music with irreverent humor and a rare insight into life.   
With elements of Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Howard Stern, MTV Unplugged, The Midnight Special, Daryl Hall and Jeopardy -
Live From Dennis' House will have you tapping your feet, singing, scratching your head, and rolling on the floor laughing.

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