Melba Moore is a New York City girl, Harlem-born. At first, she thought she’d be a music teacher, but in 1967 she landed a chorus spot in that interesting cultural moment known as “Hair.” (She later replaced her cast mate Diane Keaton in the pivotal role of Sheila.) Moore was a standout from the beginning. With her liquid, Keane-like eyes and her Merman-strong, spunky voice, she became, shortly after winning a Tony, in 1970, for her role in “Purlie,” America’s first black sweetheart—and this during the Vietnam War. She did it by projecting her need to lift you past whatever glum thoughts or feelings you might be having. Moore has survived disco, dodgy business and personal relationships, and Oprah’s acknowledgment that “Peach Melba,” as she titled one album, is indeed a legend. And, like most legends, Moore has found another niche to pour herself into—gospel. Her latest solo record, “Book of Dreams,” is a perfect blend of the secular and Moore’s alternately big and intimate sound, which has always been about faith’s long-standing power anyway.
By Hilton Als for the The New Yorker