Melanie has passed away: she performed at Woodstock, and her hit was ‘Brand New Key.’ She was 76

It happened on Tuesday night, after a career that spanned six decades.

Melanie (born Melanie Safka), a successful folk songwriter with hits like “Brand New Key” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” and among the artists who performed at Woodstock in 1969, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 76.

Her representative, Billy James, confirmed her death to Rolling Stone US without, however, providing the cause of death. The announcement was joined by statements from her children Leilah, Jeordie, and Beau Jarred: “We are devastated, but we want to thank each of you for the affection you are showing for our Mother and tell you that she really loved you all.”

The statement continues: “She was one of the most talented, strong, and passionate women of her time, and every word she wrote, every note she sang, proved it. Our world is now much darker, the colors of a gray and rainy Tennessee fade with her absence. We know, however, that she is still here, smiling down on us, on you, from the stars.”

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Born on February 3, 1947, in Astoria, New York, Melanie studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was influenced by both the folk scene of the time and the music of Edith Piaf, Kurt & Weill, Blossom Dearie, and her own mother Polly, a jazz singer.

Less than a year after the release of her debut album, “Born to Be” (with Buddah Records, in 1968), Melanie took the stage at Woodstock in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

The experience would soon inspire the single “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” recorded with the Edwin Hawkins Singers. The success of the song was followed by “Peace Will Come,” “What Have They Done to My Song Ma,” “The Nickel Song,” and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.”

Later on, Melanie founded Neighborhood Records, the first female-owned independent label in the history of rock, as stated by her representatives. “Brand New Key,” her first track for Neighborhood, dominated charts worldwide, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

In January 2024, the artist had been working on some covers (including Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Moody Blues, and Depeche Mode) for a new album, “Second Hand Smoke.” It would have been her 32nd studio recording.

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