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. 

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