"Our world is much dimmer": Woodstock star Melanie dead at 76

Melanie in 1972
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images)

Singer-songwriter Melanie, one of the stars of the Woodstock festival in 1969, has died at the age of 76. The news was confirmed in a statement released by her children, Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred.

The statement read: “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." 

Melanie was born Melanie Safka on February 3, 1947, in Queens, New York. She grew up in a musical household – her father was a jazz guitarist – and developed an early interest in folk music amidst the burgeoning counterculture scene of New York City.

Melanie's breakthrough came in 1969 at the Woodstock Festival, where the experience inspired her to write Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), a hit the following year. 

"I've had experiences where I wasn't quite in my body, but never during a performance," she told Songfacts. "I sense that when I got out there, I watched myself sit down, and it wasn't until I sang the first note that I was back. It was almost like an explosion. And I believe all 500,000 people got to witness this without knowing what had happened."

In 1971, she achieved international success with the release of Brand New Key, which topped the charts in the United States, Canada and Australia, and reached the Top 5 in the UK. Brand New Key would also inspire Combine Harvester, a parody by Irish songwriter Brendan O'Shaughnessy, later a UK number one for comedy folk act The Wurzels.  

Despite her initial success, Melanie's popularity declined over time. Nevertheless, she continued to release albums and tour, with her final album Ever Since You Never Heard Of Me released in 2010. Her final shows were in 2022. 

Melanie's children have revealed that they will be organising a "Celebration of Life" in tribute to their mother. No cause of death has been announced.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.