Killing Me Softly

This song was written by the songwriting team of Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, and it was inspired by a girl attending a concert by Don McLean, the singer/songwriter famous for his hit ‘American Pie’ written about the death of Buddy Holly in relation to the ‘day music died’.  This girl hears of this young performer and his talents, so she goes to see him perform to see if he is as talented as she has heard that he was.  When she gets there, his songs are describing all of her emotions and feelings, almost as if he had somehow read a journal or diary of hers, she felt like he had found her personal letters and was reading each one of them out loud.  The singer related her feelings so well to the song that was being sung, that she became emotional, it really hit home, she felt like the singer sang as if he knew her, in all of her dark despair, and that he looked right through her.

After being mesmerized by one of Don McLean’s concerts at the Troubadour theater in Los Angeles in particular with his song ‘Empty Chairs’, Lori Lieberman described her strong listening experience from that performance to Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.  Lori said that she felt all flushed with fever, she was embarrassed by the crowd, she prayed that he would finish, but he kept just right on singing her most private feelings.  Gimbel and Fox were writing songs for her new album, and they wrote this song for her after the three of them discussed it and they all felt that it had possibilities.

Norman came up with the song title, that is about someone listening to a song and being moved by the words.  Everyone at one point hears a song that just really hits them, where the words seem to glow and you hear the voice coming through the music.  It’s like the words are speaking to what that person’s life is about.  It’s symbolic, evocative, not good or bad, but sad and celebratory.  She’s not asking to be killed, she is being killed, as if someone sang a song so well that they destroyed the rest of the competition.  Song interpretation is often based on conjecture and rumor, and there’s no way to get the perfect answer.  Using words like ‘killing’ in a poetic context, means that someone is doing very, very well.  The killing is happening softly, thus it is happening gently and a song can kill you with sorrow, or kill you with laughter.  Music can sooth the savage beast easing it’s pain, affecting your emotions in powerful ways and certain songs can touch your soul and add meaning to your life.  Killing me softly is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life, as you will be forced to remember this event from time to time.  Killing me softly is a feeling that you get when you are forced to endure something that is really unpleasant, but avoiding that thing would actually be a lot worse.

The words were written by Norman Gimbel and set to music by Charles Fox and Lori Lieberman a young folk singer from the West Coast recorded this ballad in late 1971.  In 1973 it became a number-one hit in the US and Canada for Roberta Flack.  The song has since been covered by numerous artists, including the version by Lauryn Hill with the Fugees, which won the 1997 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Music Challenge #31: “Killing Me Softly”.

3 thoughts on “Killing Me Softly

    1. Yea me too, as that is the one I remember hearing during the 70’s. Roberta Flack heard this song for the first time when she was on a plane and she wanted to record it and then when she opened for Marvin Gaye he encouraged her to sing it. The audience went wild. Gaye came over to her afterwards and put his arm around her and said, “Baby, don’t ever do that song live again until you record it.”

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