Melissa Manchester (born February 15, 1951) is an American singer, songwriter and actress. Since the 1970s, her songs have been carried by adult contemporary radio stations. She has also appeared on television, in films, and on stage.
Manchester was born in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, to a musical family. Her father was a bassoonist for the New York Metropolitan Opera for three decades. Her mother was one of the first women to design and found her own clothing firm, Ruth Manchester Ltd. The Manchesters are of Jewish origin. Manchester started a singing career at an early age. She learned the piano and harpsichord at the Manhattan School of Music, began singing commercial jingles at age 15, and became a staff writer at age 17 for Chappell Music while attending Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts.
She studied songwriting at New York University with Paul Simon when she was 19. Manchester played the Manhattan club scene, where Barry Manilow, a friend and fellow jingle singer introduced her to Bette Midler. In 1971 she became a member of the Harlettes, the back-up singers for Midler, which she co-created with Manilow.
Manchester made a brief speaking appearance as “Yoko Ono” on the 1972 album National Lampoon Radio Dinner, on the track titled “Magical Misery Tour”, and as the singer in “Deteriorata”.
Her debut album, Home to Myself, was released in 1973; Manchester co-wrote many of its songs with Carole Bayer Sager. Two years later, Manchester’s album Melissa produced her first top-ten hit, “Midnight Blue”, which enjoyed 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song’s peak position was #6 for the week of August 9, 1975.
In 1974, she performed the songs “O Heaven” and “Home to Myself” on the pilot episode of Ms. magazine’s television show, Woman Alive!, a feminist program She also performed the song live on Burt Sugarman’s television series Midnight Special in 1974.
In 2021, she returned to playing club dates, though mainly telling stories and singing just a few songs of her catalog. During one such performance in which she shared the stage with Michael Feinstein, Melissa was surprised by Feinstein and Songbook Foundation Executive Director Christopher Lewis with the Songbook Hall of Fame’s New Standard Award. While presenting her with the award, Feinstein said, “Among the awards we present each year is the New Standard Award, which is presented to a songwriter or performer who continues to write and perform music that will stand the test of time and become the pop standards of tomorrow. I can’t think of anyone who fits that description more than Melissa Manchester. Her music has touched the lives of so many people over the years. Her songs – many of which we heard tonight – have become standards and are part of the fabric of our lives.”