There were early signs that Melba Moore would become an entertainer. The most obvious motivation was her mother, Bonnie Davis, who was also a successful singer. Witnessing the success that her mother endured, Moore knew the entertainment industry would not escape her. The world of performing arts was formally introduced to her by way of dance lessons at the age of four. Moore's mother impressed upon her that "if you don't touch people's hearts, it doesn't mean anything." Her stepfather would also become an instrumental figure in the development of her early career.
All her siblings were musically inclined. Melba's interest was dance. However, her stepfather insisted that she learn the piano. Against her will, she conceded -- and to her benefit. She gained much admiration for the blues and jazz pianists. Upon graduating from college, she became a music teacher, which she found very fulfilling. Nonetheless, Moore's affinity for the entertainment industry persisted.
Her stepfather, also a musician, gave her invaluable advice and guidance. He sensed his stepdaughter's irresistible urge to be in the entertainment industry, so he began to show her the ropes. The results landed Moore jobs singing jingles and background vocals. She hit it big when she joined the cast of the Broadway musical Hair. One day while working in the studio, a barefoot gentleman asked her if she wanted to be in the play. Moore accepted and eventually won the lead role. It was the first time in history that a black actress replaced a white actress (Diane Keaton) for the lead role on Broadway. That followed with another Broadway hit, Purlie, which earned her a Tony Award and rave reviews.
That success was followed by appearances in film, television, and recording ventures. In 1975, she married Charles Huggins. The two formed Hush Productions and began seeking out R&B artists that they could manage and produce, the most famous being Freddie Jackson, whose presence at Hush Production was primarily due in part to Moore. In the same year "I Am His Lady" was released on Buddah (Billboard number 82, six weeks); it was Moore's first single to hit the charts. It would be seven years and 12 singles later before she would claim her first Top Ten single. In 1982 the New York City native cracked the Billboard R&B charts at number five with the dance/club track "Love's Comin' at Ya."
Moore's next ten releases spawned four Top 20 and two Top Ten singles: "Livin' for Your Love" and "Love the One I'm With" (duet with Kashif), respectively peaked at six and five. The single to follow the latter was "A Little Bit More" (a duet with Jackson). The year was 1986, and it was Moore's first number one song but not her last. Also released in the same year, "Falling" claimed the top spot on the charts. Thereafter, Moore released seven more singles. Two were Top 20 hits and three were Top Ten hits, including the black national anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (Billboard number ten).
All the splendor that Moore relished would soon come to a halt. Her husband of 15 years abruptly divorced the songstress without any prior warning. In spite of the personal and professional hardships that resulted from this unforeseen misfortune, Moore was able to rebound. In 1996 she released Happy Together, her first album in six years. And in 1998 she began touring the country with her one-woman autobiographical musical Sweet Songs of the Soul. She is honorably one of the top singers the R&B world has ever known and this can be supported by her admirable chart activity, which dates back to 1975. In 2003 she was featured in the film The Fighting Temptations, and in 2009 she released an album of duets with R&B singer Phil Perry, The Gift of Love, on Shanachie Records. ~ Craig Lytle & Steve Leggett