..Jon Simonds..

A Woman With A Past
The Basically Brooklyn Series

No single recording artist better captured the hopes and dreams of a generation than Melanie Safka. Her career began on a rain-soaked stage at Woodstock during a time of great social upheaval. "I was terrified," she says. "I was the only performer at the three day event who wasn't already an established star. There were half a million people out there!"

Some walked miles for a gathering of talent echoing the ideology of recently slain leaders, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. They came because the victor of war endures the same loss and suffering as the loser. They gathered because all men are created equal regardless of the color of their skin, their relationship with their God or their desire to love.

They gathered to see Hendrix, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Who, Jefferson Airplane and many more. They became a City, a massive cooperative where children were actually born. "I went out on stage," she continued, "thinking maybe 100 people have heard of me."

Melanie performed and over the next two years blessed the world with a string of visionary hits like the chart topping Lay Down, Beautiful People, Peace Will Come, Leftover Wine, Look What They've Done To My Song, and Brand New Key. The list goes on. (Click here to sample her music.) Some of the most respected critics from The New York Times to Rolling Stone magazine called her "The female Bob Dylan." She was exceptional and then - she was gone.

As a child, my very first concert experience was at the Westbury Music Hall in Long Island. I went as part of a day camp trip. Melanie was the performer. I had never heard of her and was quickly given the wrong impression of concerts as she came out on stage and rearranged all the seating. There were about 1,000 people in the theatre and the artist looked out at the crowd and said, "Everyone in the first row. Come up on stage and form a circle around me."

There was enough room for everyone in the second row to form a circle around the first so that everyone could move down two rows in front of them. "That's better," she said. "We're all a little closer now." We stayed that way for nearly three hypnotic hours.

By the early 80s Melanie became synonymous with the age-old question, whatever happened to? In 2007, I found two tickets to see Melanie in the mail at a small venue in Clearwater, Florida. I still don't know where the tickets came from. I took my daughter. She was 11. We arrived early, used the facilities and left before returning for the start of the show. After the concert Melanie looked at my daughter and said, "You didn't know that was me in the bathroom when we were chatting, did you?"

We saw her again in Ogunquit, Maine last Saturday night. She talked about the beauty of Maine and how she is thinking of moving to York County and she talked about Miley Cyrus. We're going to find out what happened to Melanie and Miley could have the lead role. (A film is in development.) Melanie. She was just another kid from Queens spinning the essence of our soul - the pursuit of life, liberty, happiness and love.

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