Trailblazing actress and singer Melba Moore prepares for the Hollywood Walk of Fame and talks about her new album "Imagine"
Finding out she's getting a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2023 hasn't stopped Tony Award winner and trailblazing singer, actress, television host and Newark Arts High School graduate Melba Moore from continuing her more than five-decade entertainment career. Motivated by her daughter Charli, the marvelous Melba Moore is out with a new album "Imagine", with the title track already being named Soultracks' Song of the Year.
During an exclusive WBGO Journal interview, the multi-Grammy nominated told host Doug Doyle that she realizes it's a new kind of sound for her but one that speaks to her heart.
"I feel like it's my spirit but that usually remains kind of private inside of you. This is the first time I had the opportunity to express it quite this way. That's what music does, kind of a little paradise in your car or wherever you are, you haven't left the planet but you are in another space. It's very beautiful, just the whole feeling of it."
The Harlem-born Moore moved to Newark with her mom and eventually attended Arts High School where she would sing arias and form a blues instrumental group. She has always been surrounded by music, but never thought about becoming a star.
"My mother was a professional singer and performer. My natural father is Teddy Hill and of course he was responsible for running Minton's Playhouse and helping issue in modern Jazz and be-bop. He was very popular with the big bands, so it's in my DNA. When my mother met and married my stepfather Clinton Moorman, he was from Newark. He was a keyboardist and they worked together. So music was the center of lives. We lived on Rose Street. Now, instead of being an only child, I had a sister. Eventually, I would up having three brothers. Aunts, uncles, cousins, that's your first community and they were all musicians. It wasn't a matter of wanting to be a star, it's just being immersed in music."
That family tradition remains with Melba, especially with her daughter Charli. Charli was instrumental in the entire process of "Imagine".
"Over the pandemic, she said to me 'Uncle Beau (Huggins) brought these songs to me and I think you should listen to them'. Well Uncle Beau is her dad's brother. That means he's my ex-brother-in-law. So we like don't have a close relationship. We're not at odds or anything but the structure is not the same. She brought these songs to me, one by one over the down time we had. They were all beautiful songs. I thought they're great but I don't if they're right for me, but Bo and Charles, my ex-husband, have been the reason why I have all these incredible recordings that are successful and still being played, the music that we put out years ago is still out there. So, I needed to listen to them in this kind of a way. As I put them all together, this kind of sounds like the real me."
The groundbreaking milestones continue for the Montclair State University graduate who recently received the Joseph R. Biden Lifestyle Achievement Award and the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for her work in improving urban communities.
2023 year marks the 55th anniversary of the musical, Hair, in which Melba Moore became the first African American actress to take over a leading role from a white actress, who was Diane Keaton.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the summer TV variety series on CBS with Clifton Davis (The Melba Moore/Clifton Davis Hour). She is the first African American female entertainer to host a network television variety show.
Moore’s career began to soar after her historic Tony Award in 1970 for Purlie. She became the first African American actress to win in the category of Best Female Lead Actress.
Does she ever think about her impact on female artists of color, especially on Broadway?
"What was my mind at that time, I was trying to learn how to audition. One of the girls in Hair told me that I didn't really get the show through auditioning, which I didn't, I got it through a record session date. They invited everybody who was in the recording session to come and sing for the director and producer, Jim Rado and Gerry Ragni liked me. Jim told me later he liked my personality. I was still in Hair and that was going to last forever, I needed to learn how to stay on Broadway, which means you have to learn how to audition. So I learn the information and went an auditioned for Purlie and I got the part and of course the Tony Award and a career. Those are the things I think about. I didn't have a manager, but I said let's go and learn. I still have that attitude."
You can SEE the entire interview with Melba Moore here. on the WBGO Facebook Page. I’m Doug Doyle, WBGO News.