Moore’s rise to fame started in the late 1960s on Broadway when she landed a role in the musical, “Hair.” She started as a backup singer and then eventually replaced Diane Keaton — yep, that Diane Keaton — as the female lead, Dionne, in the classic story of sex, drugs, rock and roll, and the Age of Aquarius.
She received critical acclaim for “Hair” and was next cast as the lead in the 1970 musical, “Purlie,” based on a play by Ossie Davis. This story, a comedy, centers on a preacher trying to get money from a plantation owner so he can buy back his church.
“Purlie” was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Moore won the Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress and shot to fame with the hit song, “I Got Love.”
Melba Moore Sunday, Sept. 5 7 p.m. at Djangos 495 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30309
Moore continued to find success on Broadway, including in such musicals as “Timbuktu” in 1978 that starred Eartha Kitt and also in 1995’s “Les Miserables.”
She released her first solo album in 1971, “What You’re Doing to the Man,” and found success with such hit songs as “This Is It,” “Love’s Comin’ At Ya,” “A Little Bit More” with Freddie Jackson, and “Falling.” Other credits include “The Melba Moore / Clifton Davis Show,” the mini-series “Ellis Island,” R & B and pop hits “You Stepped Into My Life” and her Grammy-nominated signature song, “Lean On Me.”
In addition to a Tony Award, Moore received several Grammy nods for her music. She was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1971 for “Best New Artist” and her second album in 1975, “Peach Melba,” also received a Grammy nomination. She was nominated in 1976 for a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance — Female for the song “Lean on Me” and earned another Grammy nod in 1986 for Best Female Rock Vocal for “Read My Lips.”
Although Moore found success because of her talents, her career crashed in the mid 1990s after her husband left her and her daughter and left her destitute. But Moore continued on and continues to perform and record, building herself back up with new recording — and, yes, touring and playing Gay Pride fests.
“I love playing Pride festivals,” she tells Georgia Voice. “They’re always fun and usually they are doing some good, such as raising funds and awareness about HIV.”
Plus, she knows her gay fans have been with her through the best of times and the worst of times.
“I’ve always known about my gay fans,” she says. “Absolutely. They’ve always shown me great support and make it known. I’ve had some ups and downs in my career and they’ve always been there for me.”
And gay fans don’t forget.
“I’ve been forgotten by some people. But I’m a Tony Award winner and I always shall be,” she says.
What’s her hook with gay fans? Moore says she’s been told it’s because she’s a “strong woman and passionate.”
“And I hope it’s because I’m fun, too,” she adds with a laugh. “I’m just glad they do.”
She looks forward to returning to Atlanta, a city she believes is an important one to recognize in African American history.
“For black people, it’s way ahead of it’s time,” she says. “Politicians, mayors, all kinds of city leaders, are black. And of course it’s so important as a cultural city.”
Other divas, stars turn out for Pride
There’s no shortage of star wattage at this year’s Atlanta Pride. Traxx and Traxx Girls are bringing in the red-hot Nicki Minaj to play at the Freight Depot on Saturday; super model Amber Rose and ex-girlfriend of Kanye West will be hosting WEThim and WETher t-shirt contests, also on Saturday; and local star Ciara performing Sunday at Atlanta Live, also known as the Mansion.
Interesting note on Rose — she has stated publicly she’s had relationships with women in the past. And Minaj, who has recently been linked to hip hop star Drake, has also publicly described herself as “bi-curious” about women, but has only dated men.
Lil Kim returns for her second Atlanta Black Gay Pride as part of Wassup N ATL’s lineup of superstars with a performance at Vita in Buckhead on Saturday. Wassup N ATL is also bringing to Atlanta for Pride Fantasia, Dondria and Kelly Rowland.
Frenchie Davis will also perform live at the Piedmont Park pool party on Sunday, Sept. 5, sponsored by the National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities.
And while the men love their women — and of course the women love the women — there are some male stars also making appearances.
Actor and filmmaker Maurice Jamal is one of the panelists for the State of Black Gay America to be held on Saturday, Sept. 4, as part of Xtreme Entertainment’s annual summit. Jamal’s credits include acting and directing “Ski Trip” (2004), “Dirty Laundry” (2006) and “Friends and Lovers: Ski Trip 2” (2008).
Logo’s “Noah’s Arc” star Jensen Atwood will have a birthday celebration sponsored by the Lion’s Den on Friday at Club 595 and a “Food for Thought” brunch on Sunday at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Alpharetta. He also signs his calendar at Outwrite.
Top photo: Tony award winner and Grammy nominee Melba Moore performs Sunday, Sept. 5, at Djangos. (Publicity photo)