Melanie Thornton at her final performance in Leipzig on November 24, 2001, hours before she was killed in a plane crash
|Birth name||Melanie Janene Thornton|
May 13, 1967|
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
|Origin||Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, U.S.|
|Died||November 24, 2001
|Genres||Pop, dance, Eurodance, R&B, gospel|
|Labels||X-Cell Music, Sony Music, Epic|
Melanie Janene Thornton (May 13, 1967 – November 24, 2001) was an American pop singer who found fame in Germany and fronted the Eurodance group La Bouche, who found success with the singles "Be My Lover" and "Sweet Dreams" in the mid-1990s. She forged a moderately successful solo career in Germany before her death. Her hits include "Love How You Love Me", "Wonderful Dream", "Memories", and "Heartbeat". Thornton died in a plane crash near Bassersdorf, Switzerland. Receiving significant airplay during the annual Christmas season, "Wonderful Dream" has consistently featured in the December singles charts in Germany ever since.
Personal life and career
Thornton was born in Charleston, South Carolina and began studying voice from the age of six, as well as learning to play the piano and the clarinet. She grew up listening to Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack. Thornton would mimic the female vocalists she saw on television or heard on radio. Later on, she financed her college studies with appearances in talent shows and smaller band concerts. She frequented a club called The Peacock Lounge, getting up and doing jam sessions when the live band invited people up to sing. She had long dreamed of a career in music and in February 1992, Thornton went to Germany. Her sister lived there with her U.S. Army husband and Thornton had dual citizenship in Germany and the United States. His uncle, Bob Chisolm, a singer and piano player, encouraged her to give the German nightclub circuit a try. She had been singing in a Macon, Ga., band, Danger Zone, pulling down $50 on a good night. However, Bob Chisolm told her that on a bad night in Germany she would make $150.
Thornton tried it and soon found work in studios recording demos. It was her recording of the song "Sweet Dreams" that caught the attention of producer Frank Farian, the mastermind of the infamous 1980s duo Milli Vanilli. Farian took her under his wing, teaming her with rapper Lane McCray in the duo La Bouche, which is French for "The Mouth". La Bouche went on to become one of the biggest Eurodance groups of the 90s, with a string of hits, worldwide.
She left La Bouche in February 2000 to be replaced by Natascha Wright while Lane remained a part of the project. She signed a record deal with Sony/Epic Records. Her first solo single was released in November 2000, titled "Love How You Love Me", a ballad (the CD-maxi includes a few dance remixes). Thornton presented her new single on November 29, 2000 on the RTL Spendenmarathon, and on December 1 at the Dome in Berlin. The follow-up single was entitled "Heartbeat".
On May 7, 2001, Thornton released her first (and only) solo album entitled Ready To Fly under the label X-Cell (distributed by Sony/Epic Records)The album featured a mixture of soul and dance tracks that showed off her powerful voice There was also a Special edition of the album released featuring some remix bonus tracks. She continued to do club appearances in the United States under the billing "Melanie Thornton, formerly of La Bouche".
Death and aftermath
On the night of November 24, 2001, Thornton died in the crash of Crossair Flight 3597 near Bassersdorf near Zürich in Switzerland. Thornton had given her final performance in Leipzig and afterwards taken the ill-fated plane from Berlin to Zürich for radio and TV appearances (among others, the broadcast "Die Bar" on TV3, which was cancelled) to promote her new single "Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming)" (a Christmas ballad recorded for a German Coca-Cola TV commercial) and her album Ready To Fly (New Edition). The flight departed Berlin Tegel Airport at 21:01 CET with 28 passengers, 3 flight attendants, and a two-man cockpit crew (33 in all). Upon arrival in Zurich about an hour later, it was cleared to approach runway 28 in poor visibility conditions due to low clouds. At 22:07 CET, the plane crashed into a wooded range of hills near the small town of Bassersdorf, around 4 km (2.5 miles) short of the runway, where it broke apart and went up in flames. Of the 33 people on board, 24 died, while 9 survived. Two members of the pop group Passion Fruit also died in the crash. The disaster was featured in season 10 of Canadian Discovery Channel documentary program Mayday, but with no mention of Thornton.
Although Thornton's death occurred practically on the eve of that year's Christmas season, Coca-Cola decided to stick with the commercial as planned. It has also been used in Christmas Coca-Cola TV commercials in Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Poland. The original commercial has been aired in Germany every year since 2001 around Christmas time, and the song has been in the German single charts every year since.
On November 25, 2002 the single "In Your Life" was released to commemorate the first anniversary of her death. Included is an "in memory" dedication from Lane McCray and SonyBmg/X-Cell Records.
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Certifications
|2000||"Love How You Love Me"||48||15||29||Ready to Fly|
|"Makin' Oooh Oooh (Talking About Love)"||—||76||90|
|"Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming)"||7||3||3||Ready to Fly (New Edition)|
|2002||"In Your Life"||—||—||—||Singles only|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
- Ready to Fly (May 7, 2001)
- Ready to Fly (New Edition) (November 26, 2001)
- Best of La Bouche feat. Melanie Thornton (May 21, 2002)
- Memories - Her Most Beautiful Ballads (December 1, 2003)
- La Bouche - Greatest Hits (April 2, 2007)
- Melanie Thornton at the Internet Movie Database
- Melanie Thornton Youth Arts Foundation teaching children creative arts
- Dance artist info page on the singer
- English / German Melanie Thornton- & La Bouche-Website
- Melanie Thornton at Find a Grave
- German site dedicated to the singer's memory
- La Bouche´s Official Fansite dedicated to the singer's memory
- Text and audio of one of her final interviews, given on September 6, 2001
- Image page featuring stills from her final concerts