A Chat With The Legendary Melba Moore

Updated: Mar 25


A Chat With The Legendary Melba Moore

American singer and actress Melba Moore was born in New York City in 1945 to singer Bonnie Davis (1920–1976) and Teddy Hill (1909–1978), a big band leader and manager who managed Minton's Playhouse in Harlem which was one of the birthplaces of Bebop.


We had a chance to talk with the amazing evergreen Moore who began her beautiful recording career in 1967, cutting the track "Magic Touch" which was left unreleased until 1986. In later years it became an enormous track on the Northern Soul Scene, eventually leading to Moore performing it live in 2009 at the Baltic Soul Weekender 3 in Germany north of Hamburg.

 
 

Hello Melba, thank you for taking time off your busy schedule to talk to us today about your beautiful music career.

Thank you for having me!


What made you go into music and how long have you been in the industry?

Well, I come from a musical family. My first inspiration was my mother, Bonnie Davis, who was a professional recording artist and also very beautiful. My natural father, Teddy Hill was a famous band leader and also managed Minton's Playhouse in Harlem which was one of the birthplaces of Bebop. My stepfather, Clem Moorman was a professional pianist who formed the group The Piccadilly Pipers with my mother as the lead singer. So, I guess I can say music is in my DNA. I have been in the industry for over 50 years.

 
 

Music, Stage work and Movies. How do you transition from Melba Moore the Artist to Melba Moore the actress?

Whatever type of performance you're doing, it's all artistry. When I'm acting, I'm literally breaking down the character I'm portraying. Tapping into their personality, their mood, and probably their age. With music, it's all about how you sound. That is, you and your accompaniment. For instance, depending on the type of selection, you might use just a piano. Or, you might use a full symphony orchestra, or you might use a rock band.


The very first movie Cotton Comes to Harlem in 1970, being the early years of your music career, how was that experience like?

I still laugh at it! And it's a funny movie too. It was around the time when I did the Broadway show HAIR, and Galt McDermot, who did the music for HAIR, also did the music for the movie so that's how I got it. I had a lot of fun filming.

 
 

Your last screen appearance is "The Fighting Temptations". How was the experience like compared to the '70s and working with Beyoncé, Cuba Gooding.

It was really quite interesting and enjoyable seeing the diversity of artists in it and then watching it all come together, especially musically. I also liked how they treated the church with respect even though it was comedy. It was an honor to work with Beyonce and Cuba Gooding. Both of them are just so enormously talented.


Your latest release "So In Love", what's the background and inspiration behind it?

When I heard the demo, I thought it was really sweet and romantic as well as having a nice bouncy energy. Plus, you have to listen to see if the hook is catchy and sticks with you. That says it's a hit.


 
 

Teaming up with longtime friend and collaborator Rahni Song as well as songwriter Chantel Hampton on your latest single. Tell us about working with them to make this beautiful song.

In a word...a dream. Rahni knows how to take any song that we do and keep the essence of it while seasoning it with parts of me. And the fact that he works with Chantel made all three of us a perfect fit.


Winning the Tony Award in 1970 and earning your first GRAMMY nomination in 1971 for 'Best New Artist', what was it like?

Well, I remember how I felt when I got the TONY Award in 1970. It was shocking to me. When actor Jack Jones announced the winner for Best Supporting Actress in a musical, he said my first name and someone else's last name so I was starting to leave when I heard the entire audience scream Melba Moore, Melba Moore, I came back and I don't remember the rest. I was too excited. Of course I have since seen the footage on Youtube so thank God for that!


How many songs/albums have you released to date?

Approximately 25 albums.

 
 

What do you think of the music industry in 2021 and beyond?

I think the industry is very very diverse and very promising.


How has the current pandemic affected you as an artist and as a person?

It's made me more disciplined and more respectful of people and things we take for granted. The world is changing in many deep and meaningful ways so that means you have to plan and plan strategically.


Who are your favorite artists and how have they influenced your music and style over the years?

One has been Aretha Franklin. Mahalia Jackson, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Leontyne Price, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Beyoncé. The best way I can describe how they've influenced me is that they have made me a very diverse artist.


Are we expecting a full album release soon?

Absolutely, so stay tuned.


How do you define success as an artist?

Striving to stay relevant which means you continue to work even though things change. Basically, it's a game of survival.

 
 

Who have you collaborated with so far in your career?

Liza Minnelli, Milton Berle, Bea Arthur, Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, Clifton Davis, Bing Crosby, Ben Vereen, Rock Hudson, Carol Channing, Debbie Reynolds, Geoffrey Holder, Freddie Jackson, Phil Perry, Dionne Warwick, Eartha Kitt, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Beyonce just to name a few. There are so many.


Outside making music what else do you enjoy doing most?

I love taking my morning walks and of course spending time with my family.


What was the first album you bought?

It was probably a Nat King Cole record.


What’s your favourite