Thursday, February 24, 2011

Roberta Flack: Killing Me Softly With His Song (1973)

Today in 1973, Roberta Flack reached No.1 with "Killing Me Softly With His Song"

In Billboard Magazine dated June 22, 1974 (p. 53), writer Norman Gimbel explains the genesis of this song:

"I came to California in the mid-sixties. I was introduced to the Argentinean born composer named Lalo Shifrin (then of Mission Impossible fame). I ended up writing songs to a number of his motion pictures. I suggested we write a Broadway Musical together. He gave me an Argentinean novel translated into English from the Spanish to read as a possible idea. Suffice it to say, we never made a musical from the book -- but in one of the chapters, the principal character describes himself as sitting alone in a bar drinking and listening to an American pianist "Killing me softly with his blues". I put it in my "idea" book for use at a future time with a parenthesis around the word "blues" and substituted the word "song" instead. Many years later, Lori Lieberman saw Don McLean in concert. I then wrote the lyric and gave it to Charles Fox to set to music."

What he doesn't explain fully is that Lori saw Don McLean in concert and deeply moved emotionally. She described those feelings to Gimbel who put those ideas into words. There are some variances to this story (see, but in short, Lori Lieberman recorded the song in 1971 and then Roberta Flack covered it in 1973 and took it to #1. The Fugees also covered it and had a #2 hit in 1996....


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