Look 19th May 1970 USA

Text by Margaret English

Photographs by Maddy Miller

Melanie: Take her home with you

Melanie is a singing bird and a song-writing lady. Maybe you've heard her on FM stations that play folk and rock music the bubble-gum kids don't buy. Her American audience is still small, but those who've heard her could listen all night. In all that music, you can find a song to keep forever. But chances are her name means nothing to you.

Not that she's a flop. The title cut from her third album, Candles in the Rain, knocked the Beatles out of first place on the record charts in Holland.

She makes music for you.

But what kind of a place is that for a girl from New Jersey to have a hit? Her voice has reminded French critics of Edith Piaf. The British have likened her songs to those of Jacques Brel and Kurt Weill. Reporters and fans mobbed her in Amsterdam, while American tourists wondered who she was. Back in New York, a lady bustled up at a party and asked Melanie if she were the Flying Nun. "What a bummer," commented the toast of the continent.


When the show is all over, she feels most like singing.

There are songs in your life, if you can find them. Melanie has plucked over three albums' worth out of her own 23 years. Her music is her diary, almost therapeutically personal, but never self-indulgent. She sings of her mistakes—people she shouldn't have loved gifts she shouldn't have given— without being teenie tragic. At a recent concert, she sang, I Really Loved Harold, a wry confession of how she really loved Harold and John and Alfie and almost Tom and can no longer be considered a good girl exactly. As the audience laughed at every chorus, a voice rose from the floor: "But it's not funny." Perhaps not, but how else do you deal with it?

Shadowy in the spotlight, her reality is in sound.

Maybe you never noticed her before today. In places where people understand songs that make you laugh and cry at the same time, Melanie is a star.

She sings like Piaf or Lenya, or "Soul Sister Annie." Her voice soars, slinks and waddles. The message never misses.

Other songs are about being a performer and all that goes with it—leaving home, struggling, becoming a star. They all suggest that maybe she hasn't found what she left home for.

"And she's gonna get the love
Of the people at the bar
And she's gonna give birth
To a baby guitar."

It comes out in conversation too. Adolescence was a bad scene. Shy, fat, a lousy dancer, the only freaky kid in high school. Singing, even once a week in a run-down Jersey-shore bar for $20 a night, made it go away. But the scene has changed since then. Not long ago, she filled New York's Town Hall. The audience recognized almost every song by the first few chords of the guitar intro. Afterward, they swarmed backstage bringing her beads and animal crackers. Days later, she said, "I thought after Town Hall I'd have a lot of new friends, but it hasn't worked out that way." Another song goes:

"After the show I got nothing to do . . .
Take me home with you."

She wouldn't be such a sad guest. Put on Candles in the Rain, and hear her explode with pure gospel joy. She says it's about Woodstock, but it celebrates a lot of things—a Moratorium, an Earth Day or just a gathering to confront the world with music. Melanie's songs spring from her own life, but they, belong to you too.


This is Melanie's house. She serves cats and raisins here.

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