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Brand New Key singer Melanie dies aged 76

Melanie was famous for her hit Brand New Key (Yui Mok/PA)
Melanie was famous for her hit Brand New Key (Yui Mok/PA)

American singer Melanie Safka has died, her family have announced.

The folk musician, known for her song Brand New Key and her rendition of the Rolling Stones song, Ruby Tuesday, died “peacefully” on Tuesday.

Her death was also confirmed to the PA news agency by her label, Cleopatra Records, through Glass Onyon PR.

Also known for playing the famous Woodstock festival in 1969, she had announced a new, live performance album, One Night Only – The Eagle Mountain House on Tuesday.

In a Facebook post, Melanie’s children Leilah, Jeordie and Beau Jarred said: “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.”

They also asked for her fans to light a candle for Melanie to “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”.

Born in Astoria, New York, on February 3 1947, Melanie’s mother Polly was a jazz singer and she followed in her showbiz footsteps to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

She played at Greenwich Village coffee houses, also known to be frequented by Bob Dylan, before meeting her manager and subsequent husband, Peter Schekeryk, while auditioning for a drama based on the folk song, Barbara Allen.

Melanie made her recording debut as a backing vocalist on her composition, Love In My Mind, for 1960s girl group Mommy.

In the 1967, she released the singles Beautiful People and Garden In The City with Columbia Records before leaving a year later to join Buddah Records.

Her debut album, Born To Be, was released in 1968 but it was her Woodstock appearance that turned her into a big name.

Rolling Stones Hackney Diamonds
Left to right, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Fallon and Keith Richards (Ian West/PA)

Melanie then released her 1970 hit Lay Down (Candles in The Rain), with the gospel group Edwin Hawkins Singers, before also putting out Peace Will Come What Have They Done To My Song Ma and The Nickel Song along with a cover of The Rolling Stones’ hit Ruby Tuesday.

She then formed her own label Neighbourhood Records – one of the first female-owned independent record makers – and released Brand New Key which was on her Gather Me album.

In 1972, she briefly left music to become a spokesperson for Unicef after becoming a follower of Indian spiritual master Meher Baba and also raised her daughter.

Melanie also released the albums Ballroom Streets (1978), Arabesque (1982), Am I Real Or What (1985), Precious Cargo (1991), Old Bitch Warrior (1995) and Ever Since You Never Heard Of Me (2010).

She performed at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 and returned for a 2010 appearance along with her guitarist son, Beau Jarred Schekeryk. Melanie also played Glastonbury in 1971.

Her husband died in 2010.

Melanie’s final tour was in late 2022.

Details on her funeral will be announced in due course and the family have asked for privacy at this time.