Saturday, March 2, 1974

Roberta Flack won Grammys for Song and Record of the Year

Killing Me Softly with His Song

Roberta Flack

Writer(s): Charles Fox, Norman Gimbel (see lyrics here)


First Charted: January 20, 1973


Peak: 15 US, 13 CB, 13 HR, 2 RB, 6 UK, 13 CN, 12 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 8.3 video, 158.82 streaming

Killing Me Softly

The Fugees


First Charted: March 2, 1996


Peak: 2a US, 11 RR, 30 AC, 20 A40, 15 RB, 15 UK, 17 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.46 UK, 2.98 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.4 radio, 227.0 video, -- streaming

Awards (Roberta Flack): (Click on award for more details).

Awards (Fugees): (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

At the 16th Grammy Awards on March 2, 1974, Roberta Flack took home the prizes for Song and Record of the Year. She owes this monster hit to Don McLean – and airline headsets.

Folk singer Lori Lieberman was at a Don McLean show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles when she was inspired to write a poem RS500 – but not by “American Pie” or McLean’s other big hit, “Vincent.” No, she heard album track “Empty Chairs,” and thought, “Whoa! This person knows me!” TC Unsure how to put the poem into lyric form, TC she showed it to two men she was working with at the time: Gimbel and Fox of Happy Days fame. RS500

She recorded the song and released it as a single, but didn’t take off – well, that is, until it was literally lifted off the ground in its inclusion on a tape of music for airline headsets. SJ Roberta Flack’s curiosity was peaked when she saw the song title in an in-flight magazine while on a flight from L.A. to New York. SJ She says she “absolutely freaked” RS500 and knew she had to cover the song. TC

She and producer Quincy Jones spent three months polishing the track in the studio RS500 to create the “lushy romantic and forlorn atmosphere.” TC The result was her second chart-topper, three Grammy wins, the biggest song of 1973, WHC and, according to Blender magazine, is the eleventh most performed song ever. TC

More than 20 years later, the Fugees revived the song with the intention “to bring musicality back to hip-hop.” HL Their version became a big radio hit in 1996 and even lifted a remix of Flack’s original into the dance club play charts.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Roberta Flack
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for The Fugees
  • DMDB page for Fugees’ album The Score
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 387-8.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 70.
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Page 164.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 100.

Last updated 4/29/2021.

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