Australian charts: 1973
“Killing Me Softly with His Song” is a song composed by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel. The lyrics were written in collaboration with Lori Lieberman after she was inspired by a Don McLean performance in late 1971. Lieberman released her version of the song in 1972, but it did not chart. In 1973 it became a number-one hit in the United States and Canada for Roberta Flack.
After decades of confirming Lieberman’s important contribution to the song, Fox and Gimbel changed their version of the origin story, to downplay Lieberman’s role. Gimbel threatened McLean with a lawsuit in 2008, to remove words from his website saying that McLean was the inspiration for “Killing Me Softly,” but McLean dismissed the threat by showing Gimbel his own words confirming the inspiration, published in 1973.
Flack heard Lieberman’s version on an in-flight tape recorder while flying from Los Angeles to New York. She loved the title and lyrics and decided to record it herself. In an interview with The New Musical Express, Flack said: “I was flicking through the in-flight magazine to see if they’d done an article on me. After realizing they hadn’t, I saw this picture of a little girl called Lori Lieberman. I’d never heard of her before so I read it with interest to see what she had that I didn’t.” Flack decided to record the song but felt it wasn’t complete, so on arriving in New York she went into the studio and started experimenting. She changed the chord structure and ended the song with a major rather than minor chord. Flack worked on the song in the studio for 3 months, playing around with various chord structures until she got it just right.
Killing Me Softly with His Song hit no 1 on the Go-Set National Top 40 in April 1973 and remained at the top for 6 weeks.
This song is also on our Spotify playlist.
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