Alive and Well in the World of Yes

Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester releases her first album of original music in 10 years.

By Jonathan Widran

Melissa-ManchesterOn an unseasonably warm Los Angeles evening in early February, two days after the 57th Annual Grammy Awards were televised, a batch of contemporary music’s best and brightest — several of them in town for the Grammy presentations — gathered at the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre for “Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life — An All-Star Grammy Tribute,” which subsequently aired on CBS. Around the corner, a much smaller crowd was assembled in the Grammy Museum’s 200-seat Clive Davis Theater to celebrate Wonder in different, lower-key fashion. Speaking to the audience during an installment of the theater’s popular “The Drop” series, singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester reeled off spirited anecdotes about Wonder’s involvement in the recording of “Your Love Is Where I Live,” a gentle ballad on the recently released CD You Gotta Love the Life, Manchester’s first recording of original music in a decade.

“I had invited Stevie to come play harmonica, and he showed up with his driver, his handler, nutritionist and photographer,” Manchester related to the show’s moderator, Grammy Foundation Vice President Scott Goldman. “Stevie came in with his box of harmonicas — who has a whole box of harmonicas? — and played and played, probably giving us enough music to fill a hundred songs. He couldn’t have been more generous.

“When our session was over, he went to the restroom, and when he emerged some students who were practicing in a nearby rehearsal room were there. Imagine this crowd of kids running after Stevie, inviting him to join them. He seemed delighted, and after he listened to them for a while, one of the girl singers asked him if he would like to sing with them. The song they were rehearsing? ‘Superstition.’ So he heads toward the center of the room, with girl singers in front of him, the rhythm section behind him and the horn section in the bleachers. There’s this whole circle of music around him, and he brought it. I and some of the musicians on my session were at the door watching, wiping tears off our faces. The kids were literally screaming with delight, basking in the first golden moment at the start of their adventure.”

“Your Love Is Where I Live” artfully bridges Manchester’s past and present. She wrote the song with Tom Snow, who co-penned “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” Manchester’s highest-charting pop hit, which earned the singer her sole Grammy (for Best Female Vocal Performance) in 1983. The award capped off nearly a decade of solid hit-making, starting with 1975’s “Midnight Blue” and winding through 1978’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and 1979’s Oscar-nominated “Through the Eyes of Love (Theme From Ice Castles).”

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