Meeting Melanie Safka

Ib Ottesen and Melanie Safka
Ib Ottesen and Melanie Safka

One evening, for the first time actually I was able to relax. Jess Leary asked us if we knew of an old folksinger called Melanie. Of course we did. Peter had several albums with her in his extensive vinyl collection. Melanie used to be one of my big favorites when I was in high school. And I could still hum several of her tunes.

For the not so old readers I should point out, that Melanie was the young 20 year old girl in bare feet performing alone with just her guitar for an estimated crowd of 400,000 people at Woodstock in 1969. Among other performers at Woodstock were Jimmy Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin and Joan Baez. Rolling Stone magazine later listed Woodstock as one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.

Apparently she was giving a small charity concert in Nashville that evening and Jess Leary could get tickets for us. My young daughter Nanthida, who had come down from New York to visit me, did not have a clue who Melanie was, but joined us anyway for the outdoors concert.

Melanie arrived on stage with some difficulty. She did not look much like the young girl on my old vinyl record cover. She had turned 68 years by now, grown quite heavier, which she blamed on Mac Donald’s, and was walking with a stick. But wow, her voice was still as powerful as in the old days. And she had not lost any of her humor either, constantly cracking jokes on stage.

What Jess had forgotten to tell us, was that she would be playing with Melanie and her son on stage. And at one point Melanie to our delight greeted her Special Friends from Denmark in the audience, and invited Kristian Rusbjerg to play his accordion on stage with her. Fantastic evening. Melanie sang some of her old songs including, What have they done to my song Ma. Peace will come. Candles in the rain, etc. Quite a fantastic evening, but the best was still to come. Jess Leary said she had ordered pizza and beers for an after party, and that her friends Melanie and her son would join us at her house. At that point the evening became totally unforgettable. Sitting around the coffee table in Jess’ house, with Melanie’s son Beau Jarred strumming the guitar, and Melanie singing her songs just for us. I of cause asked her about Woodstock, and she went on telling us a long story of how she nearly did not make it on stage, as she literary went into an asthmatic panic realizing how many people were out there. Melanie regretted that she had never yet had a chance to visit Thailand, and asked me, if I knew any promotors here, which unfortunately I don’t.

Two days later I picked up my finished albums on a 32 GB memory stick bought at Walmart’s. All this effort in this little stick. I left Nashville on the 25th September, spend some days with Nanthida in New York. Spend some days in Copenhagen missing out on the great flooding in Pattaya, but eventually arrived back in Thailand early October.

The whole trip was quite an extraordinary experience, and I am grateful to Peter Vesth for being persistent and making this possible and quite easy. Grateful to all the brilliant musicians and sound engineers who did their utmost to make this album sound as good as possible. I will always be Indebted to Jess Leary for arranging the unforgettable Melanie evening, and to my wife Kannikar for the always valuable input and suggestions. Even my little dog seems to enjoy the music.

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