Melissa Manchester is a true treasure. She studied songwriting at NYU with Paul Simon.
She was “discovered” by Barry Manilow, who introduced her to Bette Midler, and was hired to be one of Bette’s original Harlettes (back-up singers). It wasn’t long before Clive Davis signed her to Arista records, and her career really took off. Melissa co-wrote her first of 3 Top 10 hits, the beautiful “Midnight Blue”in 1975. She scored two Oscar nominations in the same year for “Through The Eyes Of Love” and “I’ll Never Say Goodbye,” performing both on the Academy Awards in 1980. Melissa hit the Top 10 again in 1979 with the soul piercing “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” and the bouncy 1982 Grammy winning “You Should Hear How She Talks About You”.
For some years,Melissa has been teaching a class at USC entitled “The Art Of Conversational Singing.” One of her students, Barry Harris (named after Manilow), was destined to meet her. It’s a good thing he did, as it changed both of their lives. With her seasoned velvet voice being better than ever, Barry,(a tech whiz), encouraged Melissa to release a new album, her first in 10 years. Without a current record deal she was puzzled how to do that. Barry suggested “Indiegogo,” a crowd funding website that raises money for charities and business adventures. Over $40,000 was raised, and Melissa’s 20th studio album became a reality. It was recorded in real time, with real musicians. Guest artists included Stevie Wonder, Dave Koz, Keb Mo, Dionne Warwick, Joe Sample (in his last recording session) and lyricist Hal David, also writing his final composition.
Co-produced by longtime friend of Spaghettini, and The WWAVE Terry Wollman, highlights of the new release “Gotta Live The life” include “Feelin’ For You” (w/Keb Mo) and a dynamic torch song version of “Be My Baby,” a song first done by the Ronettes, way back in 1964. Melissa has truly now totally claimed this one as her own. I played it 5 times in a row after seeing her perform it live last night at Barnes & Noble at The Grove.
There she gave us just a small taste of her two 90 minute shows coming up at the new Spaghettini/Dave Koz Lounge tomorrow night. The 8pm show is completely sold out, with a few tickets remaining for the 11pm (just added) second show. “From A Distance” (as Bette Midler would say), Melissa has been part of my life since 1976, when I first met her at a radio station in San Francisco. She was promoting a new song, I was looking for work. Her mother Ruth was also a good friend of one of my own longtime friends Jeanie. Jeanie and her mom had a clothing store, and Ruth was one of their wholesale distributors.
Melissa doesn’t just sing and write songs, she lives them. She spills her life out to all in attendance every time she hits the stage. “All the stories have been told, it’s how you tell them that makes them memorable”. Melissa regards her mind “as a pet”. She nourishes it well with her rich knowledge and history of life being turned into unforgettable performances. Catch her 11pm show at Spaghettini Beverly Hills/Dave Koz Lounge tomorrow night. You won’t regret it.