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Beautiful People - Melanie

Back in the mid 90's, I suggested to my partners in Polar Promotions that we should book Melanie to perform at the Union Chapel, but was outvoted four to one - and we went for Tiny Tim instead. The others only remembered her from her 1971 hit single "Brand New Key", a song that even she admitted did her the long-term disservice of labelling her as "cute". I have always regretted the fact that I didn't put my foot down and insisted on Melanie.

Melanie died on January 23rd earlier this year, just four days after Mary Weiss (see previous posts). Melanie had a cluster of hit singles and albums from 1968 to 1974, and for a moment seemed to be the personification of hippy ideology at its best, outspoken in her advocation of pacifism and vegetarianism. Melanie appeared at Woodstock, but her performance didn't make the film cut or original bestselling double LP, largely because she was an "unknown". It's a measure of the power of her set at the festival that word of mouth spread her name worldwide and subsequently took her song about Woodstock, "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)", and its accompanying LP, to the top of the US charts.

The notion of Melanie being a sweet cuddly little hippy girl is swiftly dispelled when you hear the lion's roar of a voice emanating from her diminutive figure. "Beautiful People" was the first song I ever heard of hers, and the song she was singing at that magic moment at Woodstock in the rain when thousands of young audience members spontaneously lit their lighters and candles (see previous post for this ).

This YouTube version has her recording the song in the studio, but is a very special film in that it shows Melanie visually at her most tender and charming yet beneath this you can clearly see her iron will and inner confidence. This combination, her personification of the strength and power of the little in the face of the giant, was as moving and inspiring then, in 1969, as it is now, and her message of love and peace as important now as it ever will be.


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