BY DEB AND TIM SMITH
Ever wonder why revered Rolling Stone magazine was never allowed to write for the newsletter of Woodstock icon Melanie, but the Sentinel was? We’ll have that answer for you momentarily.
The most iconic rock music festival of all time certainly had its share of female moments. Grace Slick took off with her Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin sang the blues with her “Bobby McGee.” You also had Joni Mitchell write the defining anthem “Woodstock” (which was a hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), although she actually did not even attend the event. That being said, the only woman who came to Woodstock unknown, and left a legend, was Melanie.
We were honored to get to know and write for Melanie who passed away on January 23, 2024, only a few weeks shy of her 77th birthday. Sentinel stories about Melanie were published in November of 2018 and December of 2019, which was the year she painted us a Christmas rock. The whole story is too long to reprise, but suffice it to say, she remained loyal to her “aging hippie” vibe right to the very end.
Our whole connection with Melanie was actually spawned by the fact that, for some fateful reason, the best surviving picture of the two of us from high school is a summer shot featuring a fortuitous pose that of course was totally unplanned at the time. We are holding a folded-open record album of hers, reading the lyrics on the inside cover, with the album being held in such a way that her face is clearly visible. That certainly was not our intention at the time.
When we recreated the pose, decades later, with the same album, first Melanie’s entourage, and then Melanie herself, absolutely loved the “Then and Now” photo combo, and we were afforded an audience with the Queen, the keynote pictures being included here. While her staff generally adhered to a policy of posting only Melanie’s own writing in her newsletter, because they wanted it to always maintain her hippie vibe, they made an exception to include our Sentinel stories.
While we’re sure some of our Sentinel readers are too young to remember them, her biggest hits were “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” (about her Woodstock experience), and “Brand New Key” (#1 in 1971). Melanie continued to record and perform through 2022. Of the accolades she achieved, we’ll close with the significant accomplishment that, during the year of 1971, no female artist on the planet sold more records than she did. Another of her hits was “Look What They Done to My Song, Ma” and for a magical period of time in the 1970’s, the response was “They bought them like crazy!” Thanks for the memories, Melanie.