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Dolly Parton Brings ‘Tenderness’ to ‘Midnight Blue’ Duet with Melissa Manchester: Video Premiere

Mr. Nimbus | 02/22/2024

For 50 years, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester has been making timeless music that has resonated with fans. 

On her 25th album, RE:VIEW, out tomorrow (Feb. 23), Manchester celebrates the golden anniversary by reinterpreting some of her biggest hits, with an assist from some special friends. Dolly Parton joins her on majestic ballad “Midnight Blue,” which Manchester took to No. 6 on the Hot 100 in 1975. Kenny Loggins collaborates with her on “Whenever I Call You Friend,” which the two wrote in the mid-‘70s and Loggins and Stevie Nicks had an enduring hit with in 1978. 

The album includes remakes of several of her hits, including “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” for which she won a Grammy for best pop vocal performance, female, in 1983, as well as “Through the Eyes of Love,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and “Come in From the Rain.”

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Manchester, who got her start as a member of the Harlettes, Bette Midler’s raucous back-up singers — and created the role of Maddy, Blossom’s mom on the hit ‘90s NBC sitcom, Blossom — is now playing Mrs. Brice in the North American touring company of Funny Girl.

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In an email interview with Billboard, she discussed what it was like to work with Parton, whom she calls “instantly charming and intimate,” why she re-recorded her part on “Midnight Blue” and how happy she was to finally record “Whenever I Call You Friend” with Loggins. 

When “Midnight Blue” first came out in 1975, it was about a romantic relationship. You and Dolly reinterpret it as a song about a longtime platonic friendship. Why did you make the switch? 

When Carole Bayer Sager and I wrote “Midnight Blue,” it was addressing our young marriages, our young husbands and our much younger selves, and how to navigate through some stormy waters. When Dolly asked me to find us something we could sing together, it occurred to me that re-framing the inner world of “Midnight Blue” as a song between two longtime friends might expand the heart of the song. I think it did.

How did Dolly get involved? 

I had reached out to Dolly [and] told her that Kenny Loggins, Dave Koz and Gerald Albright would be on the album, so she’d be in very good company. She agreed. 

What does she bring to the song? 

Dolly brought an almost indescribable tenderness to the song. Her singing is haunting and beautiful. It touched me so much that when I first heard her performance, I was moved to go back into the studio to re-sing my part so as to match her intimate and tender quality.

You first met Dolly when she came to see you decades ago at Universal Amphitheater. What do you remember about that meeting?

Dolly came with Lily Tomlin to see a concert of mine. They came backstage — we exchanged some pleasantries, I’m sure — but truthfully, after a performance I’m a bit out of it for a while. I’m just happy someone took photos of that moment. I must say we were a fine-looking trio.

You’ve said that collaborating with Dolly “marks a special chapter in my musical  journey, embodying decades of friendship, respect and artistic collaboration.” What does it mean to have her on this album as you commemorate your 50th year releasing music? 

I think one of the last things one owns is the muscle of discernment, owning what you know, trusting your instincts, understanding that people will always have their opinions about what you do or what you should be doing — but, in this moment, I know what I know and I act when my spirit whispers to me. I know Dolly has that muscle times a million. She’s a professional, a creative and she trusts her instincts in a major way. That’s why it was thrilling when she said “Yes” to “Midnight Blue.

There’s a wonderful shot in the video when you pull up alongside a sightseeing bus in Nashville, and they realize it’s you two and go crazy. What was that like?

OMG! Trust me, it was all about Dolly! The busload of tourists saw her and basically drooped over the side of the bus screaming her name! Folks in cars pulled over and screamed her name! Dolly is a true and well-deserving queen.

There’s another shot where you two are drinking wine and eating. Dolly is a notoriously excellent cook. Is that her kitchen? Did she cook for you? 

The studio kitchen served nicely as our kitchen. It was sweet how she so enjoyed the packaged pot roast. But she is so tiny, I thought maybe she hadn’t eaten in a while and was ravenous for anything.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the song’s release and reaching No. 6 on the Billboard chart? Why do you think it struck such a chord and has lost none of its resonance? 

For me, what’s woven into “Midnight Blue,” between the words, is the subtle weariness of life. How we were able to capture that in our twenties still touches me. Often when I’d be in Nashville, invited to a songwriter’s night at the Bluebird Cafe, and invited into the circle to perform a song, and start singing “Midnight Blue,” the audience would roar in appreciation. It struck a chord in the country music world and for that I’m grateful. And I am very grateful for how many people have told me it’s helped them through their own stormy waters over the years.

How has your relationship with the song changed over the years? 

“Midnight Blue” has grown with me. I hope that I infuse the lyrics with more worldly experience and knowledge. It’s become more of an offering than a song.

As you note, the album also includes you, Kenny Loggins and Dave Koz on “Whenever I Call You Friend,” which Kenny and an uncredited Stevie Nicks took to No. 5 on the Hot 100 in 1978. Have you been waiting all this time for you and Kenny to record it together? What did you think of Kenny’s original version with Stevie?

I thought the original version of “Whenever I Call You Friend” was fine. I waited for freaking ever to re-record it with Kenny. 

This is a more elaborate, jazzy arrangement. How did it come about? 

I wanted to put my own stamp on it. As much as I admired his vocalese at the top of the song, I needed to find my way into the song. Once I found that phrase ‘Whenever, whenever when oh when, whenever…” I knew how to build the arrangement, with the help of my co-arranger/producer Stephan Oberhoff and associate producer Johnny Schaeffer. When Kenny heard the track, loved it and agreed to sing on it, and I reached out to my darling friend Dave Koz. I knew something great was bound to happen … and it did!

This post was originally published on this site

Written by Mr. Nimbus




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