Following a pair of decent, if rather unspectacular albums at the tail end of the 60s, Melanie Safka broke through into popular culture with her third effort Candles in the Rain.
Released in April 1970, Candles in the Rain would be received by an audience that had been well versed in folk, protest music, flower pop and blues rock over the previous decade.
However time was pressing on and the sound of music was beginning to shift. As the 60s turned, so Bob Dylan went electric, the Beatles fell into reclusion and the Rolling Stones became a parody – Candles in the Rain would become one the last hurrah’s of a musical generation.
Amidst this, Melanie had garnered some small praise thanks to an inspirational performance at the legendary Woodstock Festival the previous year, during which the New York-born folk singer imagined her first international hit, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”.
Dazzled by the tendency of her audience to light candles during her performance (although doubts remain whether these candles were actually such), Safka penned lyrics detailing the scenes as she looked out to the people attending the historic event.
Backed by gospel vocalist group the Edwin Hawkins Singers, “Lay Down” proved to be a folk-pop hit, finding huge success in the US, Canada, parts of Europe and Australia.
Along with future single “Ruby Tuesday” (a cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1967 hit), “Lay Down” quickly became Melanie’s signature — a song recognised right across the western world. With the new decade peeling away its layers, Melanie’s mark had been made.
As much of the folk or blues-based rock that permeated through the hippy movement descended into nonsensical prog rock and overblown psychedelia, Candles in the Rain was one of the last album’s of a dying genre, signalling the end of an era and a change of a approach.
With the 70s came not just a debilitating economic recession, but also a musical depression that saw guitar music side with pointless complexities and baffling arrangements – the dark ages before the dawn of punk.