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C.J.: She can still hit that high note

  • Article by: C.J.
  • Star Tribune
  • April 7, 2012 - 4:52 PM

Folk singer Melanie, writer and singer of the 1971 pop novelty hit "Brand New Key," enjoyed our trip to St. Louis Park's Roller Garden -- for the most part.

She was somewhat disappointed when Roller Garden manager Kim Swenson said she couldn't play Melanie's hit because it was Christian music night. Not even Melanie's affiliation with the gospel group the Edwin Hawkins Singers, with whom she performed "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" could get around this. Melanie's ears perked up during one song played at the roller rink, as you can see on my startribune.com/video. "I'd like to know how this rates as Christian [music]," she asked.

Melanie surprised me with a gift at Roller Garden: old roller skates from her attic in the original Sears Roebuck box. At first I told her I couldn't possibly accept them; I have too much stuff. Then the key inside my brain turned it on: You idiot, MELANIE is trying to give you a pair of ROLLER SKATES.

We were joined by Melanie's son and traveling companion, Beau Jarred Schekeryk, a brilliant string musician in his own right. Melanie, with Beau on instruments including an hypnotic acoustic product from GuitarViols.com, were recently at the Dakota for two nights. They enjoyed good audiences despite little advance publicity. She admits to not yet having a handle on media and other details. They were the purview of her late husband, Peter Schekeryk, to whom she was married for 45 years and with whom she had three children. Melanie's latest album is "Ever Since You Never Heard of Me."

Q Have you ever roller-skated?

A Yes, I was a fierce roller skater, when I was about 8.

Q When was the last time you were at a roller-skating rink?

A It's been awhile. I used to take my kids. Then it kind of went out of fashion a little. People Rollerbladed. [I neglected to tell Melanie that Rollerblades were invented in Minnesota by Scott Olson.]

Q Can you still hit that high note, you know which one?

A I've got a brand new pair of roller skates [she sang] ... Yep, that's the one ... [more singing] I think that we should get together...

Q My editor says there's no way you didn't know, while writing "Brand New Key," that it was a song about sex.

A No, I swear, I really, really didn't.

Q What do you think of the "American Idolization" of the world?

A I hate talent shows, really. They are so degrading. To stand up there and have Simon Cowell or whatever his name is.... It's so cruel sometimes, and they cry. Oh, come on, this isn't nice.

Q What's the most unusual activity you've engaged in while wearing roller skates?

A You know, I only roller-skated. Some other people definitely engaged in other activities. There was a [scene in the movie] "Boogie Nights" where the girl was ... I think she had nothing but roller skates on.

Q Is it true that you didn't appreciate your pulchritude during the early days of singing "Brand New Key"?

A No, I always felt awkward and never felt like a pretty person. I didn't look like the fashion magazines. I look now and think, "Wow, what was I so worried about?"

Q Why didn't you perform under your full name?

A I didn't make that decision. My record label dropped my last name [Safka] because it was too ethnic.

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com.

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