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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER MELBA MOORE
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Broadway star releases ninth album


When Melba Moore recently dropped out of her co-starring role in the Broadway hit musical Timbuktu, there was a lot of speculation as to the reason why. Some observers suggested that Eartha Kitt, the biggest box office draw, did not like to share the billing with a performer of Melba's caliber.

Melba herself has a simpler explanation: seven months of one show is enough, and she had too many other things to do — promoting her new album, preparing for another Broadway musical, doing her first lead role in a movie, going on a concert tour, making guest appearances on television, and taking care of her 16-month-old daughter Charli.

"Honey, I could join the Olympics with all I do," says Melba one afternoon at the comfortable midtown office that is used as the nerve center for her multiple activities. She is dressed in a striped hat, a white shirt and a bright red necktie. Easing her slender form onto the couch, she looks smaller, younger, and more beautiful in person than her photographs indicate. I remark on her flashy necktie, and Melba, using her hands expressively while she speaks, tells with amusement how she saw it on the collar of a salesman at Fiorucci's and said to him, "I want that tie."

Melba's first professional stage role was in Hair; from 1968 to 1970 she rose up through the chorus to win the female lead. "I have no hard-luck stories," she says, in her clear, nearly accentless voice. "From Hair, I went right into Purlie." That was the role that earned her the 1970 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress and the New York Drama Critics' and Drama Desk Awards.

Melba was born 32 years ago on West 108th Street. Both her parents were entertainers, and Melba began singing at the age of 4. At college she majored in music, and upon graduation, taking the advice of her parents to "get some security," she taught school for a year. But soon a burning desire to get into show business took hold of her, and she quit teaching. "Ever since that day," she recalls, "even before I got my first singing job, the whole world looked better to me."

It was while working as a studio singer that she was given an audition for Hair, and since then her story has been a virtually unbroken success. Melba has starred in numerous television shows, including her own summer series for CBS and an ABC special on the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Better known for her singing than her acting, Melba has recorded nine albums and has received a Grammy nomination. Her most remarkable vocal feat, however, was prob............
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