Exactly 40 years after releasing her first album, Grammy Award-winning singer Melissa Manchester continues to break new ground.
Manchester is hard at work on her 20th studio recording — her first full-length album in nine years — and she’s doing it without the support of a major label, choosing instead to finance the project’s $70,000 price tag through a fan-funding campaign she launched on Indiegogo late last month.
“I had no idea what fan funding was or how to go about it until some of my students turned me on to the idea,” said Manchester, who teaches at USC’s Thornton School of Music and is Artist in Residence at Citrus College in Southern California. “I have students bringing in their own CDs for me to hear, and I’m thinking ‘how are these kids getting this done without a label behind them?’ I am thrilled to be diving headfirst into these waters with my first new album in nine years, and with the support of loyal fans, I can’t wait to share what we’ve accomplished together.”
Titled “You Gotta Love the Life,” the album will feature a mix of classic covers, including “Be My Baby,” made famous by the Ronettes, and original material.
Local fans can get a preview when Manchester performs at Bristol’s Paramount Center for the Arts on Saturday, Sept. 14. Show time is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $35 for adults, $31.50 for seniors and $28 for students with ID.
After graduating from the High School of the Performing Arts (where she studied acting), Manchester entered New York University and enrolled in a songwriting class taught by Paul Simon. She landed a staff writing job at Chappell Music and performed as a solo singer/pianist in the clubs of Greenwich Village.
As a founding member and “toots in the middle” of Bette Midler’s girl group the Harlettes, Manchester fulfilled her childhood fantasy of playing Carnegie Hall. Six months later, she had a recording contract, and went on to headline at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall.
Manchester’s debut releases “Home to Myself” and “Bright Eyes” laid the foundation for her solo career, and “Melissa,” which followed in 1975, produced her smash hit single “Midnight Blue.”
Manchester and Kenny Loggins co-wrote the radio classic “Whenever I Call You Friend,” and her songs have been recorded by Barbra Streisand, Dusty Springfield, Alison Krauss, Roberta Flack, Johnny Mathis, Kathy Mattea, Peabo Bryson, Cleo Laine, Barbara Cook and Mel Torme, among many others.
Manchester was nominated for a Grammy in 1978 and 1979 and received the coveted award in 1982 for Best Female Vocalist. In 1980, she became the first artist in the history of the Academy Awards to have two nominated movie themes in a given year — “Through The Eyes Of Love” and “The Promise.”
Manchester has combined her acting and singing talents in starring roles in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Song and Dance” and “Music of the Night,” and in a recurring role in the hit television series “Blossom.” She also worked again with Bette Midler, co-starring in the film “For the Boys,” released by 20th Century Fox.
After work on a Christmas album and score for an off-Broadway musical, Manchester returned to the stage when she co-starred with Kelsey Grammer in Stephen Sondheim’s musical masterpiece “Sweeney Todd” at The Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, and she recently starred in the Chicago premiere of “HATS!,” a new musical that contains several songs she co-wrote with Sharon Vaughn.
She also composed for Disney’s “The Great Mouse Detective,” co-wrote the score for “Lady and the Tramp II.”
In 2010, Manchester co-created and starred in the five-time Ovation Award-nominated ballroom dance spectacular “Fascinating Rhythms” at the Rubicon Theatre, and her song “I Know Who I Am,” co-written with Joanna Cotton and Greg Barnhill, was recorded by Leona Lewis for the Tyler Perry feature film “For Colored Girls.”
In 2012, nine of Manchester’s songs were highlighted in the Weinstein Company’s feature film “Dirty Girl,” including the original theme song “Rainbird,” which Manchester recorded and co-wrote with the movie’s star, Mary Steenburgen. The year also brought the release of a new Sony Legacy CD titled “Playlist: The Very Best of Melissa Manchester,” featuring two previously unreleased masters.
Manchester has received the Governor’s Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for her contributions to the music and recording arts, and her body of work to date as a singer/songwriter was a featured exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum.
Also in 2012, Manchester received the New York Bistro Award for Outstanding Contributions to American Popular Music, presented by her friend Marvin Hamlisch. She celebrated the achievements of the inmates at Valley State Prison for Women, who had completed their training in the landmark restorative justice Prison Of Peace program, co-founded by Melissa’s friend, mediator/attorney Laurel Kaufer, with a concert inside the facility that featured the prison choir singing background vocals for “Beloved,” a new song Manchester wrote for the occasion.
Manchester rounded out 2012 with acclaimed performances in venues as varied as the Kennedy Center, The Basement in Sydney, NSW and B.B. King’s in New York City.
Manchester is currently co-writing the new musical “The Sweet Potato Queens,” based on the New York Times best-selling book series by Jill Connor Browne, with lyricist Sharon Vaughn and book writer Rupert Holmes.
To find out more about Manchester, visit her website at www.melissa-manchester.com.
For tickets to her Paramount show, call (423) 274-8920 or visit www.theparamountcenter.com.