Midnight Blue: The Color of a Hopeful Relationship
The song was inspired by conversations between Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager about their relationships with their husbands, and the challenge of knowing how to navigate through the tough times that a couple faces in a marriage. The lyrics are what Melissa calls “wearily touching,” and “poignant,” with verses like “even the simple things become rough, haven’t we had enough,” and “wouldn’t you give your hand to a friend, maybe it’s not the end.” Like the color “midnight blue” the relationship looks dark, but there is still a glimmer of light that gives the protagonists hope that they “can make it“ if they try.
“Midnight Blue” was Melissa and Carole’s first writing collaboration. Interestingly, it was the first time that Melissa worked on music with a writing partner, and the first time Carole wrote with an artist. Carole was already an accomplished lyricist as a ‘writer for hire’ at the famed Brill Building in New York City, the home of many of the most successful songwriters and composers in music history, including Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Irving Mills, Laura Nyro, and Neil Sedaka.
Melissa Manchester was discovered by Barry Manilow, while she was performing on the Manhattan Club scene in the early 70s. It was Manilow who introduced Melissa to Bette Midler, who later hired her to be part of her back-up singing group, the Harlettes.
Melissa Manchester’s Self-Titled Album Breaks Through in ‘75
Melissa and Carole Bayer Sager met backstage after a Bette Midler concert in New York City in 1972, and Carole suggested that the two write a song together and record it as a demo. The demo became “Midnight Blue.” The original intention was to submit the demo to an accomplished singer for that artist to record, such as Dionne Warwick or Dusty Springfield. In fact, Melissa personally pitched “Midnight Blue” to Dusty, but Dusty passed. Melissa was respected in the music industry as an amazing vocalist, although her first two albums as a recording artist yielded no hits.
The tune peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and went to #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in the U.S. and Canada. It has become a true standard, covered by legendary singers like Johnny Mathis and Shirley Bassey. “Midnight Blue” was also included on the soundtrack of the 1978 movie “Ice Castles,” and in the 2010 film “Dirty Girl.” Also in 1978, a song that Melissa wrote with Kenny Loggins hit the charts, “Whenever I Call You Friend,” peaking at #5.
Melissa had another Top 10 single in 1979 that was co-written by Carole Bayer Sager called “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” and received a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.’ She would win that same award, however, in 1982, for her performance on “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” Melissa’s highest charting single of her career, rising to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was also a huge hit in Australia, peaking at #4, and #5 on the Top Singles chart in Canada.
Melissa Honors Her Influencers
Melissa Manchester is an incredibly talented vocalist who deserves the spotlight with other all-time greats. Her classic singing style is perhaps best on display on her 1989 album “Tribute,” where Melissa pays homage to the female crooners that inspired her to become an artist, performing standards by Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Dionne Warwick, and Edith Piaf. In 2017, Melissa honored the male singers that influenced her artistry, singing songs that were made famous by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, and Johnny Mathis, among others. Fittingly, Melissa recently 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 as a singer/ songwriter was a featured exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum.