FROM THE ARCHIVE 315 -1973-

Drawing Bassey

Killing Me Softly With His Song
Music written by Charles Fox and words by Norman Gimbel.

Released 1973 on the album Never, Never, Never. Available on CD on some collections, for example Let Me Sing And I’m Happy and Diamonds Are Forever.

The song was originally sung by folk-singer and songwriter Lori Lieberman. She was inspired by Don McLean: Coaxed by a friend, she went to see the then-unknown McLean sing at the famous Troubadour Club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in the early 70’s.

“I was actually blase about going,” said Lieberman. “I didn’t know who he was, but from the moment he walked on stage, I was spellbound. I felt as if he knew me and his songs were about my life. I felt like he sang into my soul.”

McLean’s performance of “American Pie” and other songs inspired Lieberman so much, that she penned a poem about the singer. Still in the nightclub she made some notes on a napkin, and she said “I saw Don Mclean play the Troubadour in L.A. one night and I was so moved by his lyrics and melodies that I went home and wrote a poem about it.” She felt as though this young man had found her personal letters and read them out loud, and that he was killing her softly with his words. That poem – originally titled “Killing Me Softly With His Blues” – inspired songwriters Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox to write this song for Lori Lieberman and she went on to record it and released it on her debut album 1971.

The song was included in an airline’s in-flight music program. During a cross-country flight, soul singer Roberta Flack heard the song and immediately was intrigued by it. Upon landing, Flack investigated the song, contacted Gimbel and Fox, and offered to record it. They agreed, and in 1973 it became a No. 1 hit for Roberta Flack. Twenty-six years later, Lieberman is still licking her wounds. She was never given credit for the lyrics, and her version, as beautifully done as Flack’s, quickly disappeared.

McLean said he had no idea the song was about him. “Someone called me and said a song had been written about me and it was No. 1,” McLean recalled. “It was an honour and a delight, and I give Lieberman the credit. My songs have always come from my personal thoughts and experiences, so it’s overwhelming when someone is moved and touched by them like Lori was.”

Roberta Flack released her recording of this song on a single in late January 1973, and within a month it was number one in the US Billboard, and had been certified gold by the RIAA. In August of the same year Roberta Flack then released an Album entitled “Killing Me Softly” containing the hit single and a few other songs including “Jesse” and When You Smile. Roberta Flack 1973 received the Grammy Awards for “Pop Female Vocal” and “Record of the Year” and the composers received the award for the “Song of the Year”. The song was interpreted meanwhile by many other artists and orchestras.

Composer Charles Fox and lyricist Norman Gimbel as a team have written successfully for other artists as well, but their greatest success was in writing themes for television. Norman Gimbel teamed with composer David Shire to write “It Goes Like It Goes,” the Oscar-winning theme to 1979 movie “Norma Rae”. Norman Gimbel wrote the English-language adaptation of “The Girl from Ipanema”, which Shirley Bassey has recorded as The Boy from Ipanema.

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Lyrics:

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
But 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

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

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

(Transcribed by Roman)

73RMBassey3rdMarch

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