Beloved folk singing legend who featured at Woodstock dead aged 76

Singer Melanie Safka has died aged 76 credit:Bang Showbiz
Singer Melanie Safka has died aged 76 credit:Bang Showbiz

Singer Melanie Safka has died aged 76.

The US folk musician, best known for her song ‘Brand New Key’ and rendition of The Rolling Stones’ classic ‘Ruby Tuesday’, passed away "peacefully" on Tuesday (23.01.24), her family announced.

Her children – Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred – shared the news in a Facebook post on Wednesday (24.01.24), and even though the cause of death is unknown, Melanie’s representatives mentioned she was suffering “illness” in their separate statement.

The family announcement in full said: “A message from Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred.

“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 colours 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.

“We ask tonight, Wednesday January 24th, at 10pm central time, each of you lights a candle in honour of Melanie. Raise, raise them high, high up again. “Illuminate the darkness, and let us all be connected in remembrance of the extraordinary woman who was wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to so very many people.

“We are planning a Celebration of Life for Mom and it will be open to all of you who want to come and celebrate her. The details will be announced as soon as they are in place. We look forward to seeing you there.

“At this time please allow us, her family, privacy as we grieve for her, remember her, and figure out how to navigate this crazy world without her.

Thank you all for your love – you meant so very much to her.

“Love and Peace,

“Leilah, Jeordie, and Beau Jarred.”

Known by her performing name of Melanie, Melanie Safka was recently working on a new record featuring cover songs.

Titled ‘Second Hand Smoke’, it would have been her 32nd album.

The singer was 22 when she performed at the iconic Woodstock festival in 1969, which also featured Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead.

She said she waited hours to perform as her anxiety kept growing, once saying:

“The terror kept building in me. The thought of me performing in front of all of those people and that huge stage – I was all by myself.

“Then it started to rain and I truly believed that everyone was going to get up and go home: ‘It’s raining, I’m free, I’ll go back to life as it was. Maybe I will be an archaeologist; maybe I will join the Peace Corps.’

“That’s when they said, ‘You’re next.’”

Born 3 February, 1947, in Astoria, New York, Melanie studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts while pursuing her singing career.

She landed gigs at coffee houses and folk clubs in Greenwich Village during New York’s booming folk scene and in 1967 met her future manager, producer and husband, Peter Schekeryk.

She signed with Columbia Records and released the singles ‘Beautiful People’ and “Garden in the City’, but when Clive Davis declined to allow her to record an album, she left the label for Buddah Records, which released her debut LP. ‘Lay Down’ was her first US hit, followed by ‘Peace Will Come’, ‘What Have They Done to My Song Ma’, ‘The Nickel Song’ and a cover of the Stones’ ‘Ruby Tuesday’.

In 1971, Billboard named her the year’s biggest-selling female artist in the US.

Melanie became a spokesperson for UNICEF and continued recording albums regularly until the death of her husband in 2010.

She also frequently teamed up with her children to perform live record gigs for Internet streaming.