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Melanie, ‘Brand New Key’ Folk Singer Who Played Woodstock, Dead at 76

Melanie, the chart-topping folk singer of “Brand New Key” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” who also performed at the Woodstock festival in 1969, has died at the age of 76.

Billy James, the singer’s rep, confirmed her death to Rolling Stone, but did not provide a cause of death. “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!,” the children of the singer born Melania Safka wrote (via Variety). 

“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.”

Less than a year after the Astoria, Queens-born Safka released her 1968 debut album Born to Be, Melanie found herself onstage in front of hundreds of thousands of people at Woodstock.

“I had never performed in front of so many people in my life. I was just thrown into it, and I had my first out-of-body experience. I was terrified, I had to leave. I started walking across that bridge to the stage, and I just left my body, going to a side, higher view. I watched myself walk onto the stage, sit down and sing a couple of lines. And when I felt it was safe, I came back,” Melanie told Rolling Stone in 1989 of the experience.

“It started to rain right before I went on,” she added. “Ravi Shankar had just finished up his performance, and the announcer said that if you lit candles, it would help to keep the rain away. By the time I finished my set, the whole hillside was a mass of little flickering lights. I guess that’s one of the reasons I came back to my body.”

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The Woodstock performance would soon inspire Melanie’s Top 10 single “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”:

This story is developing.

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