Melanie Safka, Woodstock Festival Star & Singer-Songwriter Dies Aged 76
Singer-songwriter Melanie Safka, who performed one of the most iconic sets at the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival died on Tuesday, 23 January, at the age of 76.
Safka’s death was announced on her Facebook page with a letter from her three children, Leilah, Jeordie, and Beau Jarred. They wrote: “Dear Ones, 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.
“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! 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.”
Born Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk in Astoria, New York, Safka studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before deciding to pursue a career as a folk singer.
Her big break came at the 1969 Woodstock concert, which she described to Rolling Stone in 2019 as her first “out-of-body experience.”
She said “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.
“It started to rain right before I went on. 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.”
Lay Down (Candles In The Rain), the song she wrote about the experience, hit No. 6 the next year. In 1971, she had a No. 1 hit with Brand New Key. She also chalked up gold-selling US Top 20 albums with 1970’s Candles In The Rain and 1971’s Gather Me, recorded for the Buddah label.
Although Safka’s star faded in the late 1970s, she used her fame to be a spokesperson for UNICEF.
After her husband, record producer Peter Schekeryk, died in 2010, she stopped recording as often, but frequently teamed with her children on live performances and internet concerts.
More recently, Variety reported that Safka was in a recording studio working on Second Hand Smoke, an album of cover songs, for the Cleopatra label.