Roberta Flack Celebrates 50 Years of KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH HIS SONG
Roberta Flack released “Killing Me Softly With His Song” 50 years ago this Sunday, on January 22, 1973. One the greatest tracks ever recorded, her soulful, genre-defying ballad topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five non-consecutive weeks in 1973 before winning three Grammy Awards the following year.
Atlantic Records is celebrating the song’s anniversary a few days early with the release of a new remix by DJ Spinna, the acclaimed Brooklyn DJ and producer. His version is available today digitally. Listen now. This new remix is the first in a series of remixes of classic Atlantic Records tracks coming this year, tied to the label’s 75th anniversary celebration.
The anniversary celebration continues next week on PBS with American Masters: Roberta Flack, a career-spanning documentary that premieres nationwide on January 24 at 9 p.m. EST (check local listings). The documentary features exclusive performances, interviews, home movies, and more from Flack’s personal archives.
In the documentary, she shares the story behind “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” After hearing Lori Lieberman’s version of the song for the first time on a flight from L.A. to New York, Flack says she immediately began working up her own version, changing the chord structure and adding a bridge. “To my ears, it sounded better. I was not limited to just taking the song off of the page of music,” she recalls.
Two weeks later, in September 1972, Flack played the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, opening for Quincy Jones. After an encore, the crowd called her back for a second one. Encouraged by Jones, she performed “Killing Me Softly With His Song” for the first time. “After I finished, the audience would not stop screaming, and Quincy said, ‘Ro’ don’t sing that daggone song no more until you record it. And I said okay. And that was it,” she says.
Today, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” remains one of the best known songs from Flack’s award-winning recording career and one whose popularity continues to transcend generations. In 1996, the Fugees’ version reached #1 in more than 20 countries including the U.S. and the U.K. The same year, a house remix of Flack’s original recording topped the U.S. dance chart. Flack’s version of “Killing Me Softly With His Song” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and she was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
Earlier this month, Flack released The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music. Published by Anne Schwartz Books, the autobiographical children’s picture book was co-written with Tonya Bolden and illustrated by Hayden Goodmen. The book recounts Flack’s childhood in North Carolina and her dream of having her own piano. Her father made that dream come true after finding an old upright piano in a junkyard. He took it home, cleaned and tuned it, and painted it green for her.