Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk, known professionally as Melanie, is a singer-songwriter who achieved international acclaim for her 1971–72 global hit “Brand New Key.”

In 1968, Melanie was an unknown musician singing in coffeehouses and small nightclubs in New York City when, as chance would have it, her husband and record producer Peter Schekeryk ran into some concert promoters who invited her to sing at a music festival they were organizing in Woodstock, NY, the following summer.

“It was a real casual conversation,” she recounts. “They said, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be great. It’s going to be ‘An Aquarian Exposition.’ You’re an Aquarius, right? You should be there.’ So, I said ‘sure.’”

One year later, Melanie was in England writing the score for a movie called “All the Right Noises.”

“I was quite happy being behind the scenes. I never felt I was cut out to be a famous person. I said to Peter, ‘Well, it’s just going to be this little picnic,’” she says about Woodstock. “’Maybe I don’t have to go.’ We talked about it, and he said, ‘No, no, you should really be there.’ So, I agreed.”

Melanie was driven to Woodstock by her mother. “Then we hit traffic, and I am like, ‘Well, it’s the weekend. Par for the course.’ We kept driving. I finally made it to a phone booth and was told, ’Don’t go to Woodstock. It’s no longer ‘An Aquarian Exposition.’ It’s called Woodstock, and it’s going to be in Bethel.’”

She eventually made it to a hotel and was surrounded by the media. “Sly Stone walked by and there was Janis Joplin slugging her Southern Comfort. Here I am, not a [music] veteran, maybe I sang before 200 people in my life. They rushed me to a helicopter, and I was flying over this stuff, and I said to the pilot, ‘What is that crop?’ and the pilot said, ‘That’s not a crop, that’s people.’”

Melanie’s performance would inspire her first hit song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” which arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set—although most of the “candles” were actually matches or lighters.

In the years to come, Melanie would appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and collaborate with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Lennon and, more recently, Miley Cyrus. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury music festivals, The Sydney Opera House, the South Korean DMZ, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the Royal Albert Hall and other theaters, halls and beloved music clubs around the globe.

Like most musicians, Melanie generated most of her income from touring. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, she, like everyone else, isolated at home.

The lack of touring took a financial toll and prompted her to begin exploring alternative solutions to help make ends meet. She learned about reverse mortgages and later obtained one from Norcom Mortgage, located in Avon, CT.

The ability to tap her home equity and use the proceeds to cover her everyday expenses provided a huge relief for Melanie and made her an advocate for reverse mortgages.

“I would highly recommend it to anyone,” she says.

Most importantly, Melanie has begun touring again. She recently toured The Netherlands and Belgium, where she has a large fan base, and has begun doing more online shows.

“They are so much nicer, getting out of bed and taking a shower in your own bathroom and not having to pack,” she says about the online shows. “I miss the interaction with the audience because of the energy that comes from playing in front of people, but I am navigating that and doing more interactive things that you can do online.”

(Editor’s note: The comments provided by Melanie for this article came from an interview she gave to Robert Filippone and Garrett Duffy of Norcom Mortgage at the Annual Meeting and Expo of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association in October. On Tuesday, January 23, 2024, Melanie passed away. She was 76. Rest in peace.)