Meaning of Killing Me Softly with His Song

This song is an absolute international hit. She made a vivid impression on the audience in the early seventies, when she was sung by Roberta Flack. It “shot” even louder in the mid-nineties, when the Fugees presented their version. New covers of Killing Me Softly with His Song appear almost every year. She is the subject of many articles.

The authors and performers of the composition talked a lot about it, but with each interview they gave, more and more questions arose about how the song was actually written.

The history of creation and the meaning of the song Killing Me Softly with His Song

With the history of the track is still not clear. No one doubts the fact that it was written by Norman Gimbel (lyrics) and Charles Fox (music). But as soon as it comes to the participation in the songwriting process of its first singer Lori Lieberman and about the sources of inspiration for the songwriters, disagreements begin.

Let’s start with a 1973 Daily News article. It quotes both Lieberman and Gimbel:

Don McLean. Last year I saw him at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Before that, I had heard about him from friends, but I knew about him only what others told me. But I was touched by his performance, the way he performed the songs. He got through to my heart.

Lori Lieberman

Lori is only twenty, and she is a secretive person. She told us how she felt while listening to McLean… I noticed that this could make a good song, and the three of us discussed it. We talked about it repeatedly, as well as about the rest of the compositions that we wrote for that album, and it seemed to all of us that it was promising.

Norman Gimbel

Agree, a beautiful story, ideal for the promotion of the song. It was quickly picked up by journalists, music lovers, subsequent performers of Killing Me Softly with His Song and, of course, Don McNeil himself.

Only now Charles Fox claims that she is almost completely untruthful. Here is what he said in an interview with the famous site

I think it’s called an urban legend. In fact, everything went wrong. Norman Gimbel and I wrote that song for an aspiring singer called Laurie Lieberman. Norman had a notebook where he wrote down song titles, song ideas, lyrics, and anything else that came to his mind at different times. And he took out this book and started looking through it and he was like, “Hey, how about “Killing Me Softly with His Blues” for the title of the song? Well, the “killing me softly” part sounded very interesting, and “with his blues” sounded old-fashioned for 1972 when we wrote it. So he thought for a while and said, “How about ‘killing me softly with his song’? There is something special about this.”

We discussed what it could be about, and, of course, we are talking about a song that you listen to, and the words of which touch your soul. As if the words reflect the life of that person. Anyway, Normal went home, wrote an exceptional text and then called me after dinner. I recorded it over the phone. I sat down and the music just took over the words.

The next morning we got together, tweaked a few things and played it in front of Laurie. She fell in love with it and said that the song reminded her of attending a Don McLean concert. She, in turn, talked about it when she appeared somewhere. And somehow her words were twisted, as if we wrote a song based on Don McLean, and even Don McLean himself seems to be talking about it on his website. But he doesn’t know anything. You see, he only knows the legend.

Charles Fox,, 2010

Here it must be said that no one twisted Lori’s words. In an interview, which is available on YouTube, she herself claims that Killing Me Softly with His Song did not appear without her participation.

In it, Liederman tells how, immediately after McLean’s performance, at which she was especially struck by the song Empty Chairs, she composed and wrote down a poem dedicated to Don on a napkin. She then allegedly showed it to Fox and Gimbel. They asked her in detail about all the emotions that she experienced at the concert, and, taking her verse as a basis, composed a song. About the title Killing Me Softly with His Song and the word “blues” in its first version, she says the same thing as Charles Fox.

Roberta Flack, who later sang the most famous version of Killing Me Softly with His Song, said that Gimbel and Fox started writing the song before meeting Lieberman. Later, when Laurie shared her impressions of McLean’s concert with them, they slightly changed the lyrics.

Whom to believe: Gimbel, Lieberman or Fox? Yes, and Roberta Flack’s explanation sounds plausible. Decide for yourself. I think they all spoke sincerely, but their memories or even their perception of those events varied somewhat. True, it’s a shame for Lori if she really directly or indirectly took part in the composition of Killing Me Softly with His Song, because she did not receive royalties for the song.

By the way, there is an interesting assumption about the origin of the phrase “killing me softly with his blues”, which was originally proposed by Gimbel. In the mid-sixties, he and composer Lalo Shifrin (later to write music for many Hollywood blockbusters) were going to stage a musical on Broadway. Allegedly, Shifrin offered him a novel by some Argentine writer as a topic. In this piece, the protagonist drinks in a bar and listens to a pianist who “gently kills him with his blues”. It was then that Gimbel wrote these words down in his notebook.

Recordings of Killing Me Softly with His Song

The song was written especially for Laurie Lieberman. Accordingly, it was she who first performed it. The composition was recorded at the end of 1971 and released a few months later.

Check out the music video for Killing Me Softly with His Song by Lori Lieberman.

But it was Roberta Flack who made the song popular. She heard Killing Me Softly with His Song on the plane while flying from Los Angeles to New York. She listened to it several times and immediately decided that she should sing it herself. Once Roberta was at the airport, she asked producer Quincy Jones to contact Fox and Gimbel.

Killing Me Softly with His Song by Roberta Flack was released in January 1973 and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 twice. Her version of the song won a Grammy, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was included in the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of all time according to Rolling Stone.

Next is the music video Killing Me Softly with His Song – Roberta Flack.

Of the many bands and singers who later recorded their covers of Killing Me Softly with His Song, the version of the Fugees presented to the public in 1995 should be highlighted. Their track topped the main charts in two dozen countries, including the US and the UK.

Next is the video clip Killing Me Softly with His Song – Fugees.

We will not list all the performers of Killing Me Softly with His Song. There are a lot of them, and every year there are more and more. It has been translated into many languages. There are several beautiful instrumental versions of the song. She is constantly sung at all kinds of talent shows. In general, this is one of the most famous musical hits.

Finally, Killing Me Softly with Her Song by the inimitable Frank Sinatra.

Killing Me Softly with His Song Lyrics

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


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 was there, this stranger,
Singing clear and strong


Killing Me Softly with His Song Lyrics

I was told that he sings a good song
I was told that he has style
And I went to see him
And listen a little
And there was this young guy
Unfamiliar to me who…

Fingered the strings of my pain,
Sang about my life in my own words
Gently killed me with a song
Gently killed me with a song
Told my whole life in your own words
Gently killed me with a song …

I thought I was blushing
Shy crowd
I thought he found my letters
And read them all aloud
I prayed that he would stop
But he continues…


He sang like he knew me
In all my dark despair
And then he looked right through me
Like I wasn’t there
But he was there, this stranger
Who sang cleanly and loudly and …


Who sang “Killing Me Softly with His Song” better?

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