Singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester has a career in show business that few can match.
She’s written hit songs for herself as well as other artists and she’s won a Grammy Award. Her career has included writing for theatre, film and television and acting. Currently, she’s teaching a course on writing for a musical at University of California at Los Angeles.
Manchester, whose career in music has spanned 35-plus years, will perform with her band at Casino Rama on Feb. 12.
“I am looking forward to singing my hit songs, album cuts and songs from the musical theatre as well,” said Manchester on the phone from her Los Angeles home.
Manchester’s hit songs Don’t Cry Out Loud, Midnight Blue, Through the Eyes of Love, Come In from the Rain and her Grammy Award-winning You Should Hear How She Talks About You have been standards on adult contemporary radio for the past three decades.
Less well-known is the influence Judaism has played in defining her life and career. Manchester’s musical journey began as a child in Manhattan, listening to her cantor at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation chant the Shabbat prayers and sharing the blessings with her mother and sister at holiday meals and simchahs.
Ironically, her father, David, a bassonist with the Metropolitan Opera, was a confirmed atheist, but he never stopped his wife and children from participating in their synagogue. “My father and mother had their differences on Judaism, but it was positive for me as nobody was rebelling,” Manchester said. “My cantor inspired me to what would become my calling in music. I view Judaism as a gift and very much needed to connect with my soul.”
Manchester has found much happiness along with her fame. She’s been married for 29 years to music consultant Kevin DeRemer and has two children (her daughter, Hannah, is a singer-songwriter as well).
Manchester, who’s going to turn 60 soon, decided to reaffirm her faith by celebrating her bat mitzvah in 2005. “When I took some time off in the last decade to raise my children, I felt a spiritual longing to do my bat mitzvah as my children had done when they were 13. I feel a closeness now to Judaism that is stronger than I had as a child.”
Manchester honed her musical skills with the many Jewish mentors in her life. After working in the music business as a teen, singing commercials and writing music, she took a songwriting course at New York University from singer-songwriter Paul Simon.
Manchester’s big break came in 1971 when she performed in the clubs of Greenwich Village, catching the eye of Barry Manilow, then musical director for Bette Midler, who hired Manchester to sing backup with her. Within six months, Manchester had a recording contract and then a hit song with Midnight Blue. She went on to headline shows on her own tour.
During her long career, Manchester has been praised not only for her music but also for her acting skills. She played Maddie in the television series Blossom, starred with Midler in the film For the Boys and wrote and starred in the musicals Hats and I Sent a Letter to My Love.
“Melissa’s success comes from her abilities to do so many things in show business. She is one of the very few singers who can move an audience with her powerful voice and piano alone,” said Scott Benarde, who wrote a chapter on Manchester in his book Stars of David: Rock ’n’ Roll’s Jewish Stories. “The lyrics to her songs move the soul in a way that few singer-songwriters can.”
Manchester is proud to have written her own Chanukah song recently, titled Let There Be More Light, which she hopes to record soon.
For tickets to Manchester’s concert, go to www.casinorama.com.