Woodstock performer Melanie coming to Waynesboro
Whether it’s “Peace, Love, Music,” or “Flower Power,” Woodstock meant a lot of things to a lot of people.
For singer-songwriter Melanie (Safka), it defined her professional career.
“I was an unknown, I was inexperienced. I was terrified,” recalled Melanie about the moments leading up to her performance at the multi-day music festival held in New York in August of 1969.
Nearly 50 years later, Melanie is still performing music at age 72, with a stop planned in Waynesboro, Pa., on Saturday, June 15.
Michael Pryor, a local concert promoter, who has always been fond of the Woodstock era, attracted Melanie to headline what he is billing as a “Woodstock 50th Anniversary Concert” at the Waynesboro VFW.
The venue promises to be less intimidating than the more than 400,000 people that Melanie performed in front of at the beginning of her career.
“I thought I was going to die,” said Melanie as she referred to the hours leading up to her performance at Woodstock.
Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,” Woodstock turned out to be the greatest music event of all time for many people.
Melanie’s transportation to Woodstock came via helicopter ride where she was separated from her mother before boarding.
“They only allowed managers to travel with you,” said Melanie, who remembers rushing to the helicopter with her guitar strapped over her back.
While flying over the site of Woodstock on the helicopter, Melanie initially believed she was seeing crops from a distance, but later learned those crops were masses of people gathered for the music festival.
After she got off the helicopter, she encountered “traffic” and media trucks. Drawing even closer to the event, she recognized the legendary singer, Janis Joplin.
“I had never met a famous person in my life,” Melanie said.
When she arrived at the site of Woodstock, she described the stage and crowd as a “football field” and madness compared to the 8-by-10 stages she had previously performed on.
She had waited in a tent with a dirt floor before performing. Her anxiety continued to build as every so often she was told that “she was next,” but then reshuffled.
Melanie said that, as it started to rain, she was relieved as she thought “they would all go home.”
But the show went on, and Melanie eventually made her way to the stage.
“I left my body. ... I saw myself walking,” said Melanie, who added that she was not impaired.
“I felt like it was a spiritual thing that happened in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It defined who I was and changed me forever. It was the catalyst for my career.”
Melanie, whose music is known internationally, was one of only three solo women to perform at Woodstock. The inspiration of the experience led to her 1970 international breakthrough hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).”
She remains best known for her global hit “Brand New Key.”
Melanie continues to tour “nonstop” as an independent artist with her son Beau Jarred Schekeryk, a guitarist and musical director. It continues to be a family affair despite the passing of her husband Peter Schekeryk seven years ago. Schekeryk had worked as Melanie’s manager and promoter.
“It has been a new universe without him, but we continue to work nonstop. That’s our mentality,” Melanie said.
Pryor couldn’t be more excited to have Melanie headline his upcoming show, which will also include special appearances by Brock Conyea and Annie Beccio.
“I am still shocked that she got back to me. I simply made a Facebook posting asking if anyone knew anyone who performed at Woodstock,” Pryor said.
Several years ago, Pryor sponsored a Woodstock festival in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. He’s made a career out of promoting live music acts and hopes to continue to attract top talent to the local scene.
“It’s a lot of work, but I love every minute of it,” Pryor said.