May 1996


A conversation with a folk legend

Interview by Aaron Asa

Watermark: I understand you were there when the tradition of lighting candles at concerts began, can you tell us something about how that happened?

Melanie: At Woodstock, I went on right after Ravi Shankar. There were a lot of clouds and it looked like it was going to rain. I thought good, then I won't have to play. I was scared to death. It was a lot of people. So I thought if it rained, I wouldn't have to play. No such luck. The MC had made an announcement during Ravi's set, I think, about candles being passed out and something about how lighting the candles would keep away the rain.

At Woodstock I had an out-of-body experience, I really did. It was like I was above everything and when I came back I looked out over the hillside and got to watch it light up in the waves. It looked like a zillion fireflies. Of course, then I wrote "Candles In The Rain."

What can you tell me about "Brand New Key" and "Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma."?

Right after "Brand New Key" was a hit I knew I was doomed to be cute. I desired for people to listen to all the songs, but after a record reaches a level when you are filling concert halls, you are reaching people who come to hear that one song again and again. I felt like it was a false advertising. It's kind of like showing a movie with a funny trailer when it was a sad movie. But it wasn't like that with "Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma." I was sitting in a vocal booth just singing and playing and Peter, my husband, was recording me and I didn't know it. By the end of the session he had recorded most of the song.

You've always had a strong gay audience. Why do you think that is so?

It's my jaw line. I have a large jaw line. I'm right in there with Joan Crawford. But seriously, I think it is vulnerability. The gay community is a caring community. I think when I'm on stage…. I'm un-calculated. There's a feeling of "How did I get here?" I'm vulnerable. I think, too, artists have always been on the fringe in one way or another and I've always attracted people who don't fit in. I once had a critic that wanted to attack me, so he started to attack my audience…. The type of people who come to see me.

So the question that a lot of people want to know is, "Where have you been?"

I've been mostly touring Europe, my audience there is mostly young people between 15 and 25. But now I'm here, I'm back….

Melanie will perform on May 18 at 8 PM at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, and on May 26 at Mr. Pub in Ocala. Ron Heacock opens.

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