The Day Killing Me Softly Hit The Top

02/24/2011
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(Gibson) In the history of rock and roll, there are legions of songs penned by one musician in tribute to another. One of the most famous is Don McLean's "American Pie," which honored late rock greats Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper died. Almost as famous as that tune was a song written about McLean, "Killing Me Softly with His Song," which became a no. 1 hit for soul singer Roberta Flack on this day in 1973.

But it wasn't Flack who wrote the song. In fact, she wasn't even the first singer to record it. The idea for the song (or at least the title phrase) came to co-writer Norman Gimbel a few years before anyone even knew who McLean was. He explained the initial inspiration in a book titled The Craft of Lyric Writing.

"I came to California in the mid-'60s. I was introduced to the Argentinean-born composer named Lalo Schifrin (then of Mission Impossible fame). I ended up writing songs to a number of his motion pictures," he said. "I suggested we write a Broadway musical together. He gave me an Argentinean novel translated into English from the Spanish to read as a possible idea. Suffice it to say, we never made a musical from the book but in one of the chapters, the principal character describes himself as sitting alone in a bar drinking and listening to an American pianist 'killing me softly with his blues.'" more on this story

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