Melanie, Woodstock Performer and 'Brand New Key' Singer, Dead at 76

Musician Melanie Safka's three children announced her death

<p>Isa Foltin/Getty</p> Melanie Safka on September 6, 2018 in Hamburg, Germany.

Isa Foltin/Getty

Melanie Safka on September 6, 2018 in Hamburg, Germany.

Melanie, who scored hits with “Brand New Key” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" and performed at Woodstock in 1969, has died, her children Lelilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred announced. She was 76.

The musician — full name Melanie Safka — died on Tuesday, her record label Cleopatra also confirmed.

“This is the hardest post for us to write, and there are so many things we want to say, first, and there’s no easy way except to say it… Mom passed, peacefully, out of this world and into the next on January 23rd, 2024,” her children shared in a Facebook announcement.

“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!” wrote her children. “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," their statement continued.

No information on the cause of death was immediately given, but Cleopatra mentioned an “illness” in their statement.

In honor of their mother, Melanie's children asked fans to light a candle at 10 p.m. CT on Wednesday evening.

<p>GAB Archive/Redferns</p> Melanie Safka circa 1970.

GAB Archive/Redferns

Melanie Safka circa 1970.

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Melanie was born Feb. 3, 1947, in Astoria, New York. As she pursued her singing career, she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1967, she met her future manager, producer and husband, Peter Schekeryk.

She released two singles, “Beautiful People” and “Garden in the City,” after she signed with her first record label, Columbia Records. According to her most recent record label, Cleopatra, she left Columbia Records in 1968 and joined Buddah Records, where she released her debut LP.

The following year, when the singer was 22 years old, she performed at Woodstock — joining a historic lineup that included Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead.

“The terror kept building in me,” she told the Associated Press in 2019. “The thought of me performing in front of all of those people and that huge stage — I was all by myself. Then it started to rain and I truly believed that everyone was going to get up and go home. It’s raining, I’m free, I’ll go back to life as it was. Maybe I will be an archaeologist; maybe I will join the Peace Corps. That’s when they said, ‘You’re next.’”

In 1971, Billboard named her the year’s biggest-selling female artist in the U.S. after she released several hits, including “Lay Down" and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.”

Melanie then formed her own record label, Neighborhood Records, and released her chart-topping single “Brand New Key.”

<p>Martin Athenstädt/picture alliance via Getty</p> Melanie Safka in September 1972.

Martin Athenstädt/picture alliance via Getty

Melanie Safka in September 1972.

Before her death, Melanie was working on her 32nd album, a tribute album tentatively titled Second Hand Smoke. The album featured versions of Morrissey’s “Ouija Board Ouija Board,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” Radiohead’s “Creep,” among others.

Additionally, Melanie was working with the Cleopatra label to reissue her previous albums that were released after she left Buddah in 1971. The reissue rollout will start with the release of her 1984 live album One Night Only. Her three children will supervise the project’s execution, which will be released posthumously.

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