Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly With His Song

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Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly With His Song

Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly with His Song

Sounds of Soul

The song was written by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel, collaborating Lori Lieberman. Her input was at first disputed but ultimately accepted. Lieberman says it was based on a poem she wrote after a powerful emotional reaction she had to Don McLean’s song “Empty Chairs.” She discussed the idea with Gimbel, who wrote the words. He passed it along to Fox for the music. Lieberman recorded the song in 1971. Gimbel says that he was working with Argentinean-born composer Lalo Schifrin and they were devising a musical based on the Argentinian novel Hopscotch by Julio Cart├ázar. In the book, the narrator is sitting at a bar listening to an American pianist friend “kill us softly with some blues.” Well, the musical never materialized. Don McLean was flattered and humbled by Lieberman’s account and backed her story. Fox and Gimbel eventually made a deal with her. The music business is a tough business.

Roberta Flack heard the song on an airline in-flight audio program, liked it, and got the music from Fox. She didn’t record it at first but performed it at a 1972 concert where she was opening for Marvin Gaye. She sang the song as an encore, and it had a tremendous reception. Flack recorded the song in 1972 and released it as a single in 1973 , backed with “Just Like a Woman.” It was also released on her 1973 album Killing Me Softly.

The song went to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and was #1 in Australia and Canada. It went to #2 on the U.S. R&B and Adult Contemporary Charts. It was #3 in The Netherlands, #4 in Norway, and #6 in the U.K. The record earned RIAA gold certification.

On the track, besides Flack on electric piano and vocals, were Ron Carter (bass), Hugh McCracken (guitar), and Ray Lucas (drums). Flack received the 1973 Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. Gimbel and Fox won a Grammy for Song of the Year.

Here are the lyrics to “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack:

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him to listen for a while
And there he was this young boy, a stranger to my eyes

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish but he just kept right on
Strumming my pain with his fingers

Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

He sang as if he knew me in all my dark despair
And then he looked right through me as if I wasn’t there
And he just kept on singing, singing clear and strong

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song [repeat]

For More 70s Tunes

The System has daily featured music from all sorts of genres of 1970s music. You’re welcome to listen to any of the 40+ selections in The System. Thank you for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack.

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