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Defying Odds Through Staying Power

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Melba Moore is a Tony Award winner, four-time Grammy nominee, and Walk of Fame inductee.  She’s also launching a new album entitled, Imagine. Melba shares how she defied the odds when she began her career and continues breaking barriers over her storied career in music, spanning over 50 years.

DEFYING THE ODDS: HOW MELBA BECAME A PROFESSIONAL SINGER

Melba’s mother was a professional singer and her father was a famous band leader who began the movement to usher in bebop music. Her stepfather played the piano, so he gave her and her four siblings lessons.

When Melba completed junior high, she went to an art and music high school, majoring in vocal music. Then, she went to Montclair State Teachers College and studied to teach music. But after teaching music education in public schools, Melba knew she really wanted to perform. 

Her stepfather started introducing her to people in the music world. One of the first people Melba met was Valerie Simpson and she started doing backup with her. One of the recording sessions was with Galt MacDermot, who wrote the music for the Broadway musical, Hair

Hair was still casting so Melba auditioned and became the female lead, replacing Diane Keaton. Melba then landed a role in Purlie, for which she won a Tony Award. That led to television, recording contracts, and put her on the map.

THE FIRST BLACK WOMAN TO REPLACE THE WHITE ACTRESS ON BROADWAY

Melba knew that getting the role in Hair was a big deal. It broke all the rules, opened doors, and broke down barriers. It was a time in history when the civil rights movement was at its peak and she replaced a white woman in a provocative and progressive Broadway show. Melba felt like she was part of a revolution.

HOW MELBA FOUND HER NICHE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

Melba wasn’t sure what her music should be. She jokes that she doesn’t have a southern accent or a deep contralto voice. So, she had to figure out where she fit and what her style was. Her ex-husband helped her gain connections in the industry, which led to work with names like Gene McFadden and John Whitehead. 

They took “You Stepped Into My Life” by the BeeGees and made the song work for her voice, becoming one of her most successful songs to date. She believes it was a combination of the songwriters, the arrangement, and the vocal production that made it a success. 

Learn more about Melba’s thriving music career and her upcoming album in this episode of Motivational Mondays.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

  • [0:30] How Melba got her start in the music industry
  • [4:57] Why Melba’s parents didn’t want her to pursue music
  • [6:07] Becoming the first black woman to replace the role of a white actress
  • [9:44] Embracing technology and connecting with fans on social media 
  • [11:13] How Melba found her niche in the music industry
  • [13:52] The story behind Melba’s ability to hold a note
  • [16:46] Melba’s new album, Imagine

Listen to the bonus episode to learn what it was like being one of the honorees at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball and a memorable moment Melba had with gospel great, Shirley Caesar.

LISTEN TO THE BONUS EPISODE


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