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Christian Brescia 00:02
Hey everybody and welcome back to another episode of Mondays with Mindy. Hi Mindy.
Mindy Cohn 00:05
Christian Brescia 00:06
How are you?
Mindy Cohn 00:08
I'm good, how you doing?
Christian Brescia 00:09
Mindy Cohn 00:10
Today we're going to have a conversation with prolific five octaves singer and actress Melba Moore, theory and Grammy Award nominee. Yes, lean on me her Tony Award winning performance of ludi Bell in Perley being one of the first African American women to perform the title role of fantine in Les Miz. Melba, who was born into a musical family was destined to be a star. Born and raised in New Jersey, Melba landed a role in hair in 1969. From there she went on to star in the aforementioned pearly another first she was the first female pop and r&b artist to do a non operatic solo concert at New York's Metropolitan Opera House and at the Olympia in Paris. I mean, I know Melbourne is a Grammy nominated vocalist, as I said string of billboard charted hits, including lean on me loves coming atcha you stepped into my life, and the number one hit a little bit more, her duet with Freddie Jackson. In recent years, she has primarily been recording and releasing gospel albums. But Melba is planning a new album this spring momentarily to create new music for her fans to enjoy. She also has always had a presence on television and in films as well including All Dogs Go To Heaven, the Fighting Temptations, her own variety show and many televised musical concerts in productions. Melbourne was produced version of Lee every voice and sing was entered into the United States Congressional Record, as the official Negro national anthem was just named an American aural treasure by the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
Christian Brescia 01:50
Not many people can say that.
Mindy Cohn 01:52
I mean, there's a few distinguished honors in there. Don't just think. I have been a huge, huge fan of her music My whole life. So this is a thrill.
Christian Brescia 02:03
This is amazing. All right, ladies and gentlemen, we are super excited to welcome to the show Melba Moore.
Mindy Cohn 02:10
Hello, Ms. Melba, I am just so tickled that you said yes.
Melba Moore 02:16
Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me. Of course.
Christian Brescia 02:22
Thank you for being here.
Mindy Cohn 02:23
We start each episode Christian and I kind of came up with our 20 questions, and I just randomly asked you a couple questions. There's no right or wrong answer. We just start our conversation. We thought it was kind of an easier way to do it. Mm hmm. So Melba, who now this is gonna be an interesting one. Who is the most fascinating person you have met?
Melba Moore 02:48
And there have been a few
Mindy Cohn 02:49
Melba Moore 02:52
Fascinating. Persons could mean so many different things. One of the first people that just randomly came to my mind, I guess, because when you first in the industry, and you see the size. I mean, you don't have no clue anything about them. But they're fascinating to you. And I remember, I don't know if this is why was I even in the same space. But the first person that comes to my mind is Frank Sinatra. Oh, hello.
Mindy Cohn 03:29
Yeah, that would be fascinating.
Yeah. So yeah, I think for some reason, I was backstage in Madison Square Garden. He I think he was appearing there. I don't know how come I even got backstage, but I was fascinated. Yes, yes. Did
Mindy Cohn 03:47
you get to actually like meet him and have a few proper conversation with him? I
think I'm so starstruck even in remembering it. I'm not sure. I don't think he said anything to me.
I'm your family. Something like that. I don't know. Yes. Remember any words? I just, I guess I'm just still so struck with somebody like that. Of course.
Mindy Cohn 04:12
Oh, my gosh, of course. So I'm not sure if you cook but what is your favorite dish to cook? And also, what is your favorite meal to consume?
These days, my food is my medicine. Oh,
Mindy Cohn 04:25
I'm trying to keep my immune system good. And you know, fortunately good people like you keep me zoomed up. And I don't really want to think about food because I'll eat it. So talking to you. My favorite dish is riced cauliflower because I can't eat rice. But it makes you feel like you have big thick starchy, gooey. Yeah, that's
Mindy Cohn 04:52
exactly No I'll lots of butter and sauce in it, but I can't eat that. Right So yeah, I cut up a lot of avocado, which is good fat. And by the time you kind of smoosh it around some differences, and maybe I'll put some kind of chicken breasts and season at nice with everything was thought because I can't have salt, man. Like, to me though spices and stuff and you know, dark greens and make it nice and filling but healthy. Yes and you only call that cooking?
Mindy Cohn 05:26
Yeah I do. So yes. I am such a one pot girl. Yes. Very similar to that. And I too have become I've done a deep dive into not only cauliflower mash, but also sweet potato mash.
Oh, I've got to try that. Yes,
become my my go to.
Mindy Cohn 05:46
What is your favorite place to travel to?
Well, I did a lot of places. I want to go. I've never been to Italy. Is that right? I'm gonna go there. Yes,
Mindy Cohn 05:56
Mindy Cohn 06:00
So you never did you've never done contracts? Because I know you've done concerts in France. I mean, you've been across the pond, as they say and over to Europe, but you never made it to Italy.
Well not been to Italy? Not yet. Exactly. Not
Mindy Cohn 06:13
Christian Brescia 06:14
You can get it dries in Italian. I encourage you. Oh, there's not much to dislike about it. The food. The art the people? It's Yes.
Question. Yeah, I want to go to Rome because I'm Catholic. Yes. I want to go all the wonderful site. Maybe I can see the pope or something. Yeah, he's they're amazing.
Mindy Cohn 06:37
So Melba, who is your favorite relative of you don't get you in trouble. No.
Okay. No, I'll tell you why. Because I started out with such a fragmented and broken family. And as a good Catholic girl, I prayed for a sister and brother. My mother married my stepfather and I got a sister and brother one day, so they're, they're really precious to me. And I have other relatives and they know I love them all. But my sister clemmy is my favorite relative I think so. Her name is Valentine.
Mindy Cohn 07:12
Put a beautiful name. Oh, I love that name. Oh, and so you got your family.
Pretty good, Mandy.
Mindy Cohn 07:18
Thank you. Thank you. We just thought you know, people don't quite know what to expect. And we started this podcast Christian and I during the pandemic, because I miss talking to creatives. That was the only thing that was missing. I always say the first few months of the pandemic weren't really a hardship for me, because I'm kind of a homebody and a Nester, but I missed talking to people that gives me inspiration and whatever. So we just thought this would be a nice way to sort of do a little little glide into the pool. You know what I'm saying? Yes, ma'am. Okay, so last question. What is the best advice you've been given? And who gave it to you?
Well, I can't tell you the best. But I'll tell you what comes to mind
Mindy Cohn 08:01
and once more, because I'm such a fan. I know. She's a colleague, and I'm a fan.
I love that. I
remember the first time I met Aretha Franklin, go,
Mindy Cohn 08:14
Melba. You're killing me.
I know. What you under. You understand, right?
Mindy Cohn 08:20
I mean, do I understand? Yeah. Did
you see her last concert was she was singing the opera song? Yes. Oh, my gosh. Keisha.
Mindy Cohn 08:33
Yes. But also, I mean, hello. Speaking to I mean, you've done the same. So? No. No, it was it was honestly, the earth moved. I mean,
yeah. And I remember, I don't know what I said to her once to get I get so excited, sometimes. halting for I remember, she said to me, Well, you know, Melba, God's in the blessing this and this. You know, I remember exactly what she said. about that. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 09:07
I love that Words To Live By truly, especially during this time.
And that had to be like about 40 years ago.
Mindy Cohn 09:13
Amazing. Amazing. Well, listen, my best piece of advice I've had to but also happened 40 years ago, truly, from Norman Lear, who said, This is what you do, not who you are. Make sure you know.
I'm sorry. Yeah, right.
Mindy Cohn 09:29
say that. Because he created the shows about people, the heart of people. Hmm,
Mindy Cohn 09:39
yeah. And we were, you know, Facts of Life was his last one show. It's like, we were just looking up to him, like, give us the pearls before you leave, you know? And that was one of them. And I still live by that smart guy. You know. I listen, I listen. Well, I was taught well, so to start talking about your career and what you do is I mean, We wouldn't be here for hours and hours and hours. What I didn't know about you, which I love that about kind of doing a deep dive in creating the intro that I do is that I knew you were on Broadway. I knew you still act. I knew you sing. But I didn't realize how prolific you are me music has kind of permeated through all areas not just r&b and pop, but gospel and Opera. I mean, this operatic solo bit that you did years ago, I mean, that's just so incredible and have things just listen, I know you're a hard worker. I'm not trying to say anything against that. But have you just been that kind of person where things come to you? And you just say yes, and step into it? Whether you're afraid or not,
well, yes or no, always afraid. And they've come to me, but it's not like they came to me. It was easy to just say no, right? But he said no, so I went somewhere else.
Mindy Cohn 10:56
Perseverance. Yeah. It's the other thing. You need to be a creative in my humble opinion. But yes, but I love that you can you talk more about that fear. Because I do think people are, especially creatives are I don't want to say embarrassed. It's hard to talk about that. Right?
It's embarrassed. We're scared. We're shy. Were we the last people that should be public people? But I think because we're a Christian. And we've been fascinated with people's spirits and souls. I think part of the human nature is you have to have a struggle to learn something about the preciousness of life. Maybe when you start doing it. You don't know that's what it is. This is certainly a mystery. Why would you keep doing something that scares you to death? Doesn't?
Mindy Cohn 11:41
It's easier? Exactly, exactly. I mean, you were born into a musical family. So I understand that but many people well, do I have that wrong? No, just kind of when you see that it looks kind of normal. But I'm born to a single parent. Oh, that already means that the family structure was not there. Okay. That's important. Especially in that time, right? I mean, that's the only time Yeah, sure. That,
yes. So mother was on out trying to take care of me and her mother who had had strokes, so she couldn't speak. So I don't really know who my family is. So you don't have any this kind of camaraderie that suggested when you say, well, you come from a music family wasn't that bad. In fact, there was no music. There. I was raised by a nanny, and she was not musical, but. But when my mother married my stepfather, he was a piano player. Okay. And she and he worked together. He also had a son and a daughter. So that's how I got my sister and my brother. Yes, yes. Together. Daddy made us all. take piano lessons. An instrument now become intimately acquainted with music plus, mother daddy had a band, so they rehearsed in the house. Amazing. Now that's part that's normal. I mean, for us, with music and family.
Mindy Cohn 13:05
What kind of music What was the band? What kind of music they play and piano bars? Okay, like club we would consider I don't want to say cabaret,
but basically Well, not quite as fancy as cabaret.
Mindy Cohn 13:21
Got East Coast, right? Pretty much. Well, yeah. Up and down the East Coast and worked a lot in Pennsylvania. They didn't do r&b music. They did pop music because their audiences were like German. They worked in like definitely in Pennsylvania and the Atlantic City and whatever music was on the radio, which during those times I'm talking about 40s 50s wasn't a lot of r&b music on the radio. Hmm. Yes. Yes. Like market wagging or?
Mindy Cohn 13:54
Oh, my word. Yes.
That's a culture shock. Right. But But you know, okay. Oh, my God, Kate Smith. And their colleagues. Right. Alina horn to make you somebody black? Sarah? No, Ella Fitzgerald. Yes. So it was an r&b music. I mean, there were the blues singers, but they weren't none of that. They were northern. My father was second or third generation Newark, New Jersey. That's a very strange for. Usually we come from
Mindy Cohn 14:28
Mindy Cohn 14:33
I love that though.
No, I really should tell you all what you are. You know? That's right.
Mindy Cohn 14:38
No, I really identify with that. My dad and his family. Both my grandparents were Angelenos, which is also very unheard of born and raised in Los Angeles,
which comes from somewhere else there. Yeah,
Mindy Cohn 14:51
exactly. So to have that that kind of history in Los Angeles is pretty. I totally feel what you're saying. Yeah. So tell me how you get to Broadway. I'd like to know, oh, well, I'm still Melbourne, I'm still in route. That's the dream is eight shows a week I say, yeah. So tell me,
well, I'm mother and daddy wanted us to have good education. And good solid jobs, especially as African Americans is very, very insecure in terms of what your work is going to be. They didn't want us to be maids. Right. So my mother, when she married was to Father we moved to North New Jersey. But I was I started out in Manhattan. She had already taken me to the Apollo so it was too late. Oh, I love it.
Mindy Cohn 15:37
I love it. Good on her.
But so I went to elementary public school in Newark. By the time I got to junior high school and was trying to think about high school, I discovered our time that I could major in music. Okay, so I majored in vocal music in Arts High, went to Montclair University, and I majored in vocal music education. And I taught school for about two, three years. But then I said, you know, Daddy, this is your dream. It's not mine. But I wasn't, and I am a good teacher. Now. I feel like that's really, really inspiring me, first of all, to would never get you over the fear of being in front of an audience. But you look at them differently. Yes, I would say you see the children look at you. They look right through you. So Oh, my goodness. You see yourself from a different perspective. But what is a Terry, would you please take me to some of your colleagues and see if you can get me into the industry. So he did. And one of the first people I met was Valerie Simpson when somebody offered my word. So he got his hand on me. Oh, no kidding.
Mindy Cohn 16:51
So but you have to have the goods and the perseverance. Yeah.
I mean, we don't find that out. Really? Until you get into the into the fray. Yes. Yes. Yes, ma'am. She got me involved in background studio singing. Okay. One of the recording sessions was for Gordon intermot. Do you know who he is? Of course I do. You do?
Mindy Cohn 17:14
I mean, it's legendary.
Oh, okay. Well, anyway, for those who don't, he wrote the music for the Broadway show here. And they were still casting. So they invited everybody on the recording session to go down. And that's how I got my first Broadway show.
Mindy Cohn 17:31
Oh, amazing. Amazing. Well, I'd love just a little, you know, trivia is that the film version was one of Charlotte Rae, who played Mrs. Garrett, one of her first big, you know, feature film roles. And so, you know, I have a special place in my heart for her anyway. But, um, how long was that run?
Mindy Cohn 17:50
Oh, my gosh, I stayed with it for the initial
Yeah, it was in theater. It was at the cheetah, and was also Off Broadway before it came to Broadway. But once it was on Broadway, it ran in New York for about 10 years, but happens all over the world simultaneously. So it's very different than most Broadway shows, because they will. astrology didn't go according to your talent, they will according to sigh. Ah, that is so insane.
Mindy Cohn 18:21
That is so crazy.
that some of the most talented people in the world, but it was primarily by your astrological sign. Amazing. Amazing, man.
Christian Brescia 18:31
I asked was that the that was that your first audition and your first major kind of role for Broadway?
That's a good question. Because really what had happened, we recorded all the music that God had written for the show as his solo album. So it was about two weeks. And so he and Jerry Rodney and generator who wrote the book, and the lyrics, basically auditioning a song, I didn't really audition. And that's an interesting story. Because by the time I stayed in a shell for about a year and a half, and I wound up with the lead role and replacing Diane Keaton, which is very strange. Yeah. Hi. Love it. What are the girls in the in the we call it a tribe? Not the course. Oh, okay. She said no, but you really don't know how to audition. So true. Yes. Right. So she says, Why don't you start going up for auditions while you're still in the shop. Oh, gosh.
Mindy Cohn 19:27
And she said, brilliant.
Show me what you're supposed to do. She told me like you're supposed to do what they call typecasting acid we're forced at sushi. So when you go through the bar you try to find out something about the wrong niche. All right. Well then make a long story a little bit shorter. The show was pearly Yeah.
Oh my gosh. Okay.
scenario was looted. Belkacem a Jenkins. All I had to do was be country. I was serious because they will they didn't hear me. They didn't look I didn't sing for them.
Mindy Cohn 19:59
You didn't Now Oh, amazing,
but amazing. I got love for me after the title song that I did sing in the show kept stopping the show and people said, Who's that young lady? She should have another song. So they wrote, I got love for me. Amazing.
Mindy Cohn 20:15
I also did not know that is amazing. I mean, and from there, it just seems that the record industry, which is such a completely different animal, you know, you don't hear about that that trajectory is so fascinating to me. How does that land?
Well, that took a little time I got offered recording contracts, and I had some music, but I really didn't have a style and identity yet. And quite a few years later, I met my then who became my husband, and manager, and we really started to try to develop a style for me for recording. So he went out and got the best songwriters and producers and record deals for me. And one of the first people we got was then Koi Oh, wow, was he wrote the hustle, which was like a worldwide dance hit, which really ushered in what we call the disco era.
Mindy Cohn 21:12
100% and there you are.
So you wrote my first slim dance hit called, oh, this is it. It's still successful. But then after that, we started to create a pattern. How do you find the best record company and the best songwriters and producers for r&b music?
Mindy Cohn 21:30
Well, that's what I was going to interrupt you and just say, you know, that's, you know, one of your most amazing talents was not to get trapped in that disco era version, right people sort of like began and lost their career right there. But during that time period, but you seem to just and I'm I know it's not that effortless but really did just seem to glide right into being the r&b star that you are and deserve. And I'm wondering how that
how that got a lot of helpful once again, my then husband on he's not a musician, but um, he has a gift hearing like people want to hear and kind of helping me find songwriters that could help me develop a style because I'm, since I'm not from the south, and we don't fit our southern accent even you know. But disco music, accommodate. FM Norman had a disco hit? Yes, yeah. So it accommodated all kinds of things. And you're also invited all different ethnic backgrounds into that group where they were kind of separated. You had pass, we had r&b, so we started there. And I guess I was kind of middle of the road. We started to develop music for me. That's one of my big, big, big hits, was written by the beegees. But it was produced by McFadden and Whitehead. Do you know who they are? Right? I don't you don't know who McFadden and Whitehead are? No,
Mindy Cohn 22:58
I feel like an ignorant, right.
They're like kings of the Philly international music. They wrote music for the chase. And for all the big on to the international music. But okay, you've probably heard this. A no stopping is now. Of course you will they wrote and produced they perform cat. But tons and tons and tons and tons of music. Well, we stole them. And
I love that.
We took the you stepped into my life from the beegees Mm hmm. But he gave his field the international arrangement with the funder baselines. And, yes, by the time we got to that point, it wasn't just gonna be more it was deaths. Right and you know, helped me evolve as it was evolving, and keep moving along as it continues moving on. Besides that, they are just incredible, valid writers. Actually, I think an r&b music and balance and my forte.
Mindy Cohn 24:01
Oh, I would, I mean, I wouldn't limit you to that. But yes, I understand why
you say that sing a serious lyric. If it's a love, lyrical inspiration, whatever it is, and they're really really good at that and helping me find where I could fit in that and helping me stay in the hit realm as I continue to learn.
Mindy Cohn 24:19
Yes, well also you did something that again a lot of people would get star and sing their hit on different variety shows But you came in as a performer I mean as an actress as a singer as so your variety show experience during that time as well. I mean, it kind of kept you in a different Yeah, you know, category. You know what I'm saying? You know, what
many What happened? The Tony one of them and probably for me, it broke a lot of color lines to
the color line. Yes.
Okay. So, um, as an actress, I co starred with the author on her specials. I co starred with Cal Burnett
Mindy Cohn 24:59
you Yes, I remember seeing that Melba. No, I mean it.
I'm laughing because I'm seeing her in her crazy looking self, and he's standing beside her. And as a black version of a crazy looking you weren't able to work the gift, the gift from God is, I was entered into the television in variety, as an actress, not as a hit record seller was a different category. Now that you mentioned it, that really didn't exist
Mindy Cohn 25:32
at all, it still doesn't. It really was very unique to you know, I'm serious when I say this, Lola falana, for example, would go and do a dance number a, you know, a musician would go and sing their top hit, and that would be the end of it. But you did everything on these shows. And so I think you just, I don't know, there was no way to just put you in one category, which is like such a unique blessing to someone in show business. I think
I agree. I'm very happy and grateful. But how things happened because I couldn't figure out how to do that.
Mindy Cohn 26:05
Yeah, it's amazing. But you again, you just you said yes to it, which I appreciate and whether or not you did it.
That brings me to the question you had asked, you know, did it just come to you? And to just do well, yes and no. Right? Well, I
Mindy Cohn 26:19
identify with that. Because the same thing, you know, it's one thing to have the story I have a being discovered, but you know, I'm still doing it. 40 years later, so there's something to it, you know? Yeah, yeah, I feel so tell me what is currently happening out? Are you recording new music? That is
it? And then it's a whole new day before we used to have like four or five record companies? Yes. And they signed it to that. And it was called exclusive. Yeah. Now world is independent, if it's music, or whatever it is. So I have a good partner that has really grown with the internet and how everything is marketed.
Mindy Cohn 26:56
Thank God. So
that is good songwriters, and producers, an independent situation. So I have several different projects, all independent, wonderful. And then what happened was the clever dance music, and the DJs have developed into entrepreneurs. Yeah, so not only do they have their own following, which is not only just global, because we were global. But you know, I, you did great if you sold a million records around the world. Now you can do that a minute, because that's amazing. The reach Yes, is multiplied so much. And so wonderful songwriter producer, did a CD for me. And we took one that he wrote, especially for me, and this is called just doing a so you get a chance you can go and listen to it.
Mindy Cohn 27:42
Oh, well, I love that title, by the way, just doing me. And he gave it to this wonderful.
mixer. DJ is Terry Hunter, but he's like King of the disco. You can't call it disco dance. Why don't you call it anymore? That's so they know what to call it?
When you find out
and they put it out in this huge hit. And by the time they changed the the tempo and everything. And it's not like anything that I've done before. So it's not complicated, very simple. But it's just not the start is now music. So when I heard this Oh, wow, that's really nice. Who's that? singing? Oh, that's fantastic. I love it.
Mindy Cohn 28:28
I love it. And so all karate, I mean, it just keeps coming. That's the breathtaking part. I think about what we all do you as creatives is it's never ending. I mean, to me, that's the most exciting part of it. I don't feel finished. I don't think I'll ever feel finished until someone lets me know it's time to go off, you know. But that's exciting. So is there new gospel music as well, or this is the train you're on right now.
No, can't get on that train. You can't get off that train. I'm not a gospel singer, brand believer. So I express
Mindy Cohn 29:05
that when people want to hear it now, because it's been very well received for the decades now.
less emphasis was I needed to express it. It's not that I thought I could necessarily sell records. And it happened at a time in my life was shut down, except for God. And I was out on tour in my first gospel play. So I was running all gospel people. Well, I shouldn't say that, right? They would say to people, Oh, I like that. They were born again, Christian. And so one person I met was Shirley Murdock. And she had one really big head call as we lay the r&b but she's a great great quak quak quak quak quak quak gospel singer, songwriter and solos her husband and they wrote a couple of songs for me and she sang it with me if you ever hear her say your gag
Mindy Cohn 29:59
oh I will have to Listen,
let's just get my app on this call the day I turned to you, we can listen Thank you. We'll just get call me. Okay. It's a do what we'll do between myself and Shirley. Because that's why I did it cuz I just need to express myself to the Lord. And she made it that you know, so that it's really, really commercial. And you could sell it also. Yeah,
Mindy Cohn 30:23
Oh my gosh, no loss again. You know, I learned how to sing it that way.
Mindy Cohn 30:29
Well, that's the chameleon in you and then yes, exactly. Yes. We love it. And we want more of it forever and ever. Melba. I want to thank you so so much, you do not know how dear You are to my heart. I mean, I've grown up with you and your music. And I just think you are the bee's knees is Melba.
Me to Mandy.
I love you now.
Christian Brescia 30:55
This was pretty amazing. We're very lucky, very privileged to have you and we're so thankful that you said yes. When we asked Ladies and gentlemen, one more time, the incredibly talented Melbourne more.
Bless you guys. Thank you.
Mindy Cohn 31:07
Christian Brescia 31:09
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