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Melba Moore: "Here I Come...Get Ready!!!"

Melba Moore
By Deardra Shuler

Melba Moore was born in Harlem Hospital to a single mother who was a professional singer.  An only child, Melba learned to fight early on in life. Since her mother was on the road most of the time, originally Melba was raised by her grandmother.  Her grandmother fell ill and then a nanny was hired who eventually became the quasi-head of the family.  "We called the nanny, Mama Lu, although her true name was Lulubelle Hattie Mae Stetley Hawkins," recalls Melba.  Mama Lu came up from the cotton fields sans education with a hard hand, love, and a taste for alcohol. "We didn't call folks alcoholics then.  We would just think "...she sure is sippin,' rippin' and a 'tastin" chuckled Melba.  "That was my early background, lots of beatings from Mama Lu. It was kind of rough but certainly it built compassion, which is a great, great strength.  It's really a warring tool.  It's a way to do battle.  And it's why you win. You win because humility is your weapon," explained Moore.  "It's a kind of insanity.  You have a combination of humility, anger, violence and all those things.  That is the abusive side to it, but if you come through it the right way, it really develops character and integrity which can give you a certain drive and energy.  It actually ends up providing one with a positive goal oriented edge," claims the durable singer.
Melba's mother eventually married. Moore's new step father was a musician who provided her with a ready made brother and sister whose own mother had passed away. Melba's mother and stepfather had a combo together and often played the night club circuit.  The family eventually moved, including Mama Lu, to Newark, NJ, where Melba found herself taking piano lessons alongside her siblings. At age 9, Melba fell in love with both the artistic and technical side of music.  "I went from fighting class to middle class.  I went from the streets to taking piano and ballet lessons and learning to exist within an entirely new family unit.  I loved my step dad.  He told me I couldn't use my fists anymore.  He taught me how to communicate.  I wanted a dad and a whole family which has everything to do with who I am as a whole human being, in spite of whatever has happened to me.  I am strong now but not hard."


Melba attended Mt.Claire College where she earned a teaching degree in music. She was a gifted teacher but felt teaching wasn't her life's calling.  Melba began doing studio background singing.  Then, she moved onto her first Broadway role as the female lead in the musical, "Hair," taking over from Diane Keaton.  Melba put color into "Hair."Moore's second Broadway role in "Purlie," won her a Tony Award.  Afterwards, she went on to do a supper club tour and then the "Melba Moore/Clifton Davis Show." 
Melba was flying high for 3 years when she fell to earth with a thud.  Her turn of bad luck was due to bad managers who fleeced her and a major illness that incapacitated her, leaving her hospitalized for nearly a year.  "I came out of the hospital only to discover my mother in a deep state of depression and fragile health due to her lifestyle and failed marriage.  This was painful to see. However, my mother's having to take care of me gave her someone to care for and she began to show some signs of improvement."  Moore and her mother began to try to heal one another through dietary changes and much needed love. 

 Since Melba no longer had management she began to perform at benefits to keep her name alive.  She met her ex-husband, Charles Huggins, a restaurateur, at the Apollo during one of those benefits and they began to date.  "I was still caring for my mother at the time and I think one of the things that made me really love Charles was the way he loved and took care of my mother.  They really had a good and loving relationship.  Charles was a good man for a very long time but later things went very wrong.  Charles never really did show his true colors until towards the end of our marriage.  He got people to forge my name on documents to get a secret fraudulent divorce," claims Moore.  "All this time he was still living with me.  It seems he never intended to leave but just to change the legal situation.  The divorce was the mechanism to put all of our/my assets in his name. In the end, I didn't have the time or the money to fight the situation.  Charles had always taken care of everything.  He was managing my career and eventually I found myself isolated from everybody and everything.  We had a daughter and I was devoting my time to raising her. 
"One morning, the postman came with a package and I happened to be standing downstairs.  Usually, Charles got the mail.  I opened the package and saw a document which said final divorce decree.  I saw that this document was already signed and final.  I approached Charles about it but he said: "Don't worry about it, they are just papers," recalled the singer.  Melba soon realized that she had to carefully plan her recourse and eventually counter sued for divorce so she could get custody of her daughter. Very carefully Melba extricated herself from the situation and started her life over.  Broke, wounded, homeless and struggling, Melba eventually ended up on welfare.  "There was a period that Bill Cosby took my daughter in and helped to pay for her education.  I will always be grateful for that," say Melba.  Although, Moore had many trials by fire her trust in God pulled her through.

Melba is riding the crest once more due to her own talents, determination and the aid of those around her.  Melba is busy these days.  She has had a comeback in the studio with her new CD entitled: "I'm Still Here." And, she has been lauded for her performance on screen in the movie entitled, "Fighting Temptations."  Her new gospel CD, "I'm Still Here," is a stunning vocal feat.  The lady can still hit the decibel meter - ranging from a low G to a high C in one bar. Moore sings with all the heart, soul and force of a woman who rose from the ashes to become a Goddess.  It is clear that Moore's trust in God has brought her back a winner.  
Melba Moore is truly still here!  So, get ready because she plans to stay.  Her concert at Mother Zion AME Church on Saturday, October 18th was spectacular.  Melba was in great form.  Her voice was more youthful and poignant than ever and she literally rocked the house with her vocal pyrotechnics. Moore seemed ageless as she sang songs from the musical "Hair" and "Purlie."  She took the audience down a memory lane of her childhood with songs her mother sang and others such as "Lift EveryVoice and Sing," I'm Not Alone," "Praise Yah!," "Stormy Weather" "Blue Skies," "I Got Love," and "Lean on Jesus."  She bedazzled the crowd with her vocal styling and acting skills, that one moment intimated concert and the next cabaret. Mooreis a true showman and artist extraordinaire. 

Melba Moore is back better than ever, giving testimony to the fact, that the light of a true star never truly wanes and can always find a way to keep on shining through.
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