Killing me Softly

This morning, under the shower, I was particularly excited when this song popped up on my playlist.  Talk about music lifting the spirits.  To say it fitted my mood well would be an understatement!  It has been on my mind for a while to write about how I experience Killing Me Softly, and now seems as good a time as any.

On the basis that I have found music, lyrics more precisely, to be a moving source of inspiration and comfort, this is kind of how it goes.  It is as if the lyrics can bend to whatever it is that you need to hear in the moment you find yourself in.  And I can see that what I am hearing may very well be different to another person’s interpretation of them.  I think of it as something almost akin to magic.  A trick of the universe.  It is capable of guiding us through personal times of crisis and joy, and no matter what are ages are. Songs can have multi-layered interpretations.  I see the writers of strong lyrics now almost as mystics, or at least conduits, through which universal inspiration and knowledge is able to flow.  So many of the songs that I had chosen to put on my iPod, and then on my iPhone, suddenly became alive, and I seemed to hear them properly for the first time after Elle died.  Yes, I have added quite a few new ones, but mainly I had them all the time.

This particular song was requested by my good friend, Claudia, one evening when we sat outside listening to songs following that August 2016 fateful moment.  She was our rock, support and comfort during the worst time in our lives.  She is also Elle’s godmother, along with another dear friend, Ann.  The synchronicity of Claudia’s unexpected arrival to join us in Galicia has not been overlooked.  Claudia has had her own share of pain, and was able to step out of it, and give support to us in ours, even though her pain at the loss of Elle deeply felt too.

About a week after Elle died, Peter, Claudia and I were sitting out on a barmy September evening listening to our favourite songs together, while a few of Elle’s friends relaxed around us too. I was already collecting a list of favoured songs that later developed into our Elle playlist, which continues to build.  One of our evermore personal favourites is a song called Courage by Villagers.  This particular song was sent in an email by Elle in the August of 2015 to Peter, Kate, Heather, Greg, maybe a few others, and me.  The only people who listened to the song, that I know of, were Greg and Heather.  A few days, and while Heather was with us, something nudged her to ask us if we had listened to it.  No, was the answer, and I went straight to my laptop and searched for emails written by Elle, and there it was – a link to the video.  The first thing that jumped out at me was that it had been released on Elle’s birthday in 2015.  I heard the opening lines and had to stop it.  I waited a few months before I could open it again.  It now truly renews our courage at those opportune moments when it leaps to the top of our playlist.

But back to the story I started telling.  Claudia asked us to play one of her favourite songs, Killing me Softly, by Roberta Flack.  While it hasn’t been a favourite of mine, Peter couldn’t stand the song.  But nevertheless, because of how we were all feeling and what Claudia meant to us both, it was going onto our Elle playlist.  Some months later, when it once again popped up, I heard something new in the lyrics, and suddenly the song came alive.  Now it was me going through the darkest of times, and I heard there was a young boy everyone was talking about.  I sought him out, and found him sitting crossed legged on the bank of a river, and as I approached him he started to ‘speak my language’. He caused my life to play out before my eyes as he gently stroked my cheek.  And the more he stroked the more I saw, and the more I saw, the more knowledge I gained from my travels though life.  It wasn’t easy having to see all the mistakes I had made, and there were moments when I wanted him to stop, but he just kept on going.  When the moment was over, I knew what I needed to know about how to face forward, and head on into the light.

I couldn’t resist looking up the provenance of the song.  Quite a story!  The music is by Charles Fox and the lyrics by Norman Gimbel.  Being only interested in the lyrics I went straight to Gimbel, and it became apparent that there was a third involvement, Lori Lieberman. She had just started college in the US but was already gaining a reputation as a singer/songwriter.  Around the age of nineteen she got signed up, through Fox and Gimbel, to Capital Records.  According to Lieberman, she had been at a Don McLean concert at the Troubadour, and she had had a ‘moment’ listening to his song, Empty Chairs, where it was as though he was singing directly to her.  Gimbel, a man of forty-three, had become her boyfriend.  She contacted him and asked him to come over to the club as she had written some thoughts on a napkin, and she thought there was perhaps a song in it.  He joined her, and the song started taking form.  He contacted Fox, and together they continued to all meet up and work on the song.  She decided to record it on her first album, and being a much more innocent era, plus her youthful naivety, she never asked for a credit, and was never offered one.

Her version of the song was rising on the charts, but Roberta Flack got to hear it, and decided to do her own version, and this went huge, leaving Lieberman’s gentler and less produced version to drift into obscurity.  Lieberman, after minor success, and then becoming disenchanted with the music business, left it for a couple of decades.  Later, with encouragement, she returned to the studio with her songs, and has since increased her audience such that she has recorded a number of new albums, and gone on to tour with them, including to Europe.  Interest grew around a controversy about her involvement with Killing Me Softly, and Gimbel attempted to kill her version of events. But ultimately an article was located, written in 1973, in which he talks at length about Lieberman’s involvement in the writing of the song.  Don McLean also supported her version, and a TV appearance around the same era finally confirmed Lieberman’s story.  And mine is done too.

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

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’d 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

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 words

 

Songwriters: Norman GImbel / Charles Fox

Killing Me Softly with His Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

 

 

Author: jenniesredbook

Someone who is trying to find the stepping stones that will make a difference to her in this lifetime.

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