Melanie Safka was born on 3 February 1947 in Astoria, Long Island, New York, of Ukrainian/Italian parentage. Her rise to stardom reads like a modern-day fairy tale.
In 1966 while auditioning for a bit part in a play, she accidentally walked into a music publisher’s office where she was asked to sing and play her guitar. Fortunately, they liked her and invited her back.
The company in question was none other than Columbia Records. The budding songwriter/singer was then assigned to producer Peter Schekeryk who was to become her husband and father of their three children.
After two flop singles, Melanie signed to a label called Buddha late in 1968, and her first album, Born To Be, revealed her to be a childlike and coy vocalist. When the LP hit the shops in May 1969 she was invited to play at the Woodstock festival later that year.
Then in 1970, The Seekers had a US hit with one of Melanie’s better-known songs, What Have They Done To My Song, Ma? while she herself made the UK Top 10 with a melancholy version of Ruby Tuesday (from the pen of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards). Both songs were from her accompanying Top 5 album, Candles In The Rain.
This golden period saw her release three more successful albums, the last of which (Gather Me) featured an American #1, Brand New Key – a slightly risqué song about a pair of roller-skates and an adjustment key.
Melanie’s commercial clout dwindled as the 70s wore on, and as her record sales fell away, the record label she had started with her husband went belly up. Atlantic picked her up for the 1979 album Photograph.
While Melanie could never recover her former star status, her cult following allowed her to keep on releasing albums throughout the 80s and 90s, mainly on independent labels.