Melanie

26 Sep

My kids have no concept of time or age.

Whenever I mention something that I know about the 60’s they usually ask me, in all seriousness, if I was a ‘hippy’ back then. Let alone that the 60’s wasn’t my time period, I sometimes stand agape and startled with the realization that they think that I’m an old enough to have followed Timothy Leary, owned a Volkswagen Beetle and walked around with one hand holding up the peace sign and the other clenching a fistful of white daisies. But it’s the same with the 70’s; they ask me if I was a ‘Disco Stu’ – a reference to the Simpson’s character who dances in skates under a glitter ball with a mid-fro and silk shirt open to the chest hair. These are the stereotypes they have of a time period. I always reply back that I was both of those, and going back further, in the 50’s I was a greaser and back in the 40’s I was a bobby soxer.

I suppose that one day they’ll field questions from their own kids, who armed with the knowledge that their parents were born in the 90’s, will ask if they were skater punks with strategically torn jeans, metallic belts and oversized black t-shirts.

In my random shuffle play list, Melanie came on – which I turned way up and clapped my hands to it. Their X-Box and DS consoles were paused and they looked up and asked who it was – in their non-committal, blank stares so as not to let on whether they liked, or disliked, the song. That’s how the discussion of the 60’s came about. After a brief background about songs of peace, they turned away, the games came back on and they continued to further their pollex’s performing strenuous acrobatics.

Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)
Few songs can literally make me shiver because of synaptic waves fluttering through my central nervous system. This song is one of only a few that can do that.

Starting out with a tap of thunder, Melanie Safka, with the Edwin Hawkins Singers, join a pounding bass and sing adoration to the site she witnessed looking out from the stage when she played at Woodstock at age nineteen twenty two – the swelled masses lighting candles during her set. The lungs on this little lady, and those of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, are hard to be believed; they are a packed, powerful persuasion to slap palm to palm and levitate a few inches off of terra-cotta in folk/gospel spirituality.

I can picture the little hippie girl, a lone figure with an acoustic guitar donned with ribbon, wearing her fringe jacket in front of a skinny microphone, belting out this sonic hymn with the Hawkins Singers, all decked out in overflowing red satin robes, swaying back and forth, and singing powerfully enough that the back row could feel it as if they were first row, center stage.

Turn this, the full length album version, up to 11.

We were so close there was no room
We bled inside each other’s wounds
We all had caught the same disease
And we all sang the songs of peace

Lay down lay down lay it all down
Let your white birds smile
At the ones who stand and frown

So raise candles high ’cause if you don’t
We could stay black against the night
Oh raise them higher again
And if you do we could stay dry against the rain

Together Alone
Beloved quotes; heart-enlarging poems, remembered lines that we might not speak above a whisper, songs of lamented distinction, all adoring and joyously drowning in a chosen commitment to loving only one. There are so many ways to feel and interpret life-altering unity, but Melanie mines a new vein of obligation here. Particularly poignant are the lines “We know looking’s not seeing”, “We’ll learn living, like the words of a good song” and “I don’t want to sing it on my own”.

She’s saying that it doesn’t happen at first freshness and that it will take time and agreement to allegiance. It comes from the heart and not the head. A smoldering co-joining that becomes a glistening pinpoint of loving solidarity in a world full of those who struggle to find a “soul-mate”.

With this track as an example, it’s easy to see why such heavyweights as diverse as Nina Simone, Bjork, Macy Grey and Cher have chosen to cover Melanie’s compositions.

I crave for Mavis Staple to interpret this one.

We’ll grow old, we’ll take care of each other
I’ll be your sister, your mother, your lover
We’ll be friends during changes of weather
Let’s be together on our own
Let’s be together alone

We’re believers, we’ve been hurt by believing
Needing people, we know looking’s not seeing
I see needs that might be answered by forever
Together on our own
Let’s be together alone

We’ll learn living, like the words of a good song
We’ll learn timing, balance and rhythm
We’ll make it music
I don’t want to sing it on my own
Let’s be together, let’s be together alone

Let’s be together alone

Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)
Together Alone
From: Beautiful People – The Greatest Hits Of Melanie [1999]

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2 Responses to “Melanie”

  1. Jim Baldwin 09/26/2010 at 11:22 PM #

    Kids are so funny. They just couldn’t admit they liked Melanie in front of mom. lol

    I’m a fan of Melanies also. I have 722 songs by her downloaded on my PC. She’s the best.

    You made one mistake in your blog. Melanie was 22 when she played at Woodstock.

    Nice read, Thanks.

  2. WZJN 10/10/2010 at 11:32 AM #

    Jim – thanks for the correction. I have to sift through my sources more carefully. 722 songs by Melanie? What, you’re a close friend? Amazing! Thank you.

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