Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk was born to parents with widely different ethnic backgrounds: a Ukranian father and an Italian mother. It seems pretty clear that using the stage name Melanie made it easier when it was time to announce her.
Melanie’s mother was a jazz singer and no doubt helped push Melanie into public singing: Melanie sang on a radio show at age four. While still in college, she began singing in clubs in Greenwich Village and that quickly led to a recording contract. In 1969 she recorded wrote and recorded Beautiful People. She also recorded Bobo’s Party, which reached #12 in France did not reach any other charts. Beautiful People was re-released in 1970 and became a top ten record in the Netherlands.
Woodstock provided the breakthrough Melanie had worked towards. She performed at Woodstock, and the reaction of the crowd inspired her to write Lay Down (Candles In The Rain). The Edwin Hawkins Singers provided backup vocals for her and the single reached #6 on the Hot 100, number one in two other countries, and top five in several more. Her next single did not fare as well. Later in the year, she released a cover version of the Rolling Stones record Ruby Tuesday that reached the top ten in the UK. The B-side of that record was What Have They Done to My Song Ma.
The Seekers were an Australian group that had a series of hit records in the middle sixties (their most popular single was probably Georgie Girl). The group fell apart when the female lead singer left the group in 1968. Keith Potger recruited several new members and formed the New Seekers in 1969. Their first record went unnoticed, but beginning in 1970 they released three consecutive singles that were written by Melanie.
The first single was a cover of Melanie’s B-side which was retitled Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma. The single was a top-five record in several countries and reached #14 in the US. After that success, they covered Beautiful People (#11 on the Adult Contemporary chart) and Nickel Song (#13 on the AC chart).
Near the end of 1971 the New Seekers recorded a version of a Coca-Cola commercial and had a huge hit with I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing. You may recognize the song from a pivotal commercial on the final episode of Mad Men: I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke.
Melanie’s career was hardly over. In 1971 she recorded the chart-topping single Brand New Key. Several more top forty singles followed as well as over forty albums.
Perhaps her most unusual recording came when Miley Cyrus invited Melanie to sing with her on stage and they performed an all-new version of Look What They’ve Done To My Song. Only fair to warn you that Melanie couldn’t resist breaking into French on her verse.