Melanie Safka, Astoria native who performed at Woodstock, dead at 76

Jan. 26, 2024 By Ethan Marshall

Musician and Astoria native Melanie Safka, best known for her hit songs “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” and “Brand New Key,” died Tuesday at the age of 76, her family said in a statement on Facebook.

Better known by her stage name “Melanie,” she was among those who performed at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969. She was one of just three solo female performers at the event. It was her experience playing at Woodstock that inspired her to write her song Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), as attendees were lighting candles during her set there.

Melanie ended up founding her own record label in 1970, “Neighborhood Records.” It was the first independent label in rock history to be owned by a woman. It was there that she recorded the 1972 song Brand New Key, which sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. The song gained a resurgence in popularity 25 years later with its inclusion in the popular 1997 film “Boogie Nights.”

Melanie remained active in the music industry for the remainder of her life. She went on what proved to be her final tour late in 2022 and published her memoir, “Lake Days,” in 2023. Melanie had recently signed on with Cleopatra Records and was in the process of making her 32nd album, “Second Hand Smoke,” which was to be comprised of cover songs. Earlier this month, she recorded covers of Morrissey and Nine Inch Nails.

She is survived by her kids Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred.

“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!,” Melanie’s children wrote in a statement. “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.”

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