Melanie Safka, a breakout hit at the 1969 Woodstock festival whose performance helped her blossom into a 70s chart-topper, passed away at 76 earlier this week, according to a Facebook post from her children. Her longtime publicist Billy James confirmed the news to the AP.
No cause of death was given for the “Brand New Key” singer, but her children Leilah, Jeordie, and Beau Jarred spoke at length about the pain of losing their mom and the legacy she left on a music industry she remained staunchly a part of until her end.
“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! ” they wrote. “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,” they added.
The statement ended with her three children asking her fans around the world to light a candle in her honor the following night.
“We ask tonight, Wednesday, January 24th, at 10 pm central time, each of you lights a candle in honor of Melanie. Raise, raise them high, high up again. Illuminate the darkness, and let us all be connected in remembrance of the extraordinary woman who was wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to so very many people,” they said.
“We are planning a Celebration of Life for Mom and it will be open to all of you who want to come and celebrate her. The details will be announced as soon as they are in place. We look forward to seeing you there.”
The singer-songwriter was known for her soulful and raspy voice, charming the 1969 Woodstock audience with a nighttime solo performance that imprinted her contribution to the flower power generation. She was one of just three female solo performers, the others being Joan Baez and Janis Joplin. Her opening night set sparked a raising of candles across the grounds in upstate New York and inspired her 1970s hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” which reached #6 on the Billboard Top 100.
Other singles from Safka including “People in the Front Row” and “Garden in the City” continue to inspire to this day. The latter got a prominent placement in the most recent season of the Netflix series “Black Mirror.”
Born Melanie Safka, she was raised by a jazz musician father in Queens and went on to study music at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her performances at coffee shops throughout the boroughs raised her profile throughout the 60s.