"Killing Me Softly with His Song" by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

Piano AR guidance for “Killing Me Softly with His Song”

"When it says, 'I heard he sang a good song,' wow, that's me." —Lori Lieberman

Folk singer Lori Lieberman and her producers were searching for one final song to complete her album, A Thousand Dreams, for Columbia Records.

Lieberman went to the Beverly Hills club, The Troubadour, to see Don McLean perform. She was particularly struck by McLean's words in his tune, "Empty Chairs." Lieberman related to them so much that she stayed after the set and wrote her thoughts down in a poem to share with songwriters Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.

"It just killed me," said Lieberman. "I really felt like he was singing about me and my life."

Songwriter Charles Fox had a slightly different recollection, however, their stories converge on Gimbel having a book where he'd collected ideas and titles for potential new songs. Thumbing through his book, he found the title, "Killing Me Softly with His Blues." The latter half sounded a bit, Fox recalled, "old-fashioned" to them, so Gimbel changed it to "Killing Me Softly with His Song."

A year or so later superstar songstress Roberta Flack was returning to New York from a concert she'd played with Quincy Jones. On the flight she was listening to the airline's programmed music and heard Lieberman's track. By the time Flack landed, she'd decided to record "Killing Me Softly" herself.

Flack's version became an international hit, soaring to number one on the Billboard charts. Flack won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Gimbel and Fox won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year (1973).

More than twenty years later, the Fugees recorded a cover of the song on their album, The Score, to wide acclaim. It would go on to win the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group (1997).

"A Hazy Shade of Winter" by Paul Simon

Written by Simon, and sung together with his friend and longtime collaborator Art Garfunkel, the song was released as a single in 1966 and included on the 1968 “Bookends” album, their fourth studio collection together. It rose to number 13 on the Billboard charts. Years later, in 1987, the song would be repurposed as a cover by the band, The Bangles, as part of the soundtrack for Marek Kanievska's film, “Less Than Zero.” The cover version reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by George Harrison

The seventh track on the eponymous “White Album” and the b-side release of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” marked his emergence as an elite songwriter and has been hailed by fans and critics alike as among the best Beatles songs of all time. In addition to the celebrated hard rock version, an acoustic outtake was released on the 1996 Anthology with Paul McCartney playing harmonium, and later on the Love compilation with George Martin’s final string arrangement for the group.

"Lean On Me" by Bill Withers

Drummer, front-man, music journalist, historian, and educator Questlove refers to his hero Bill Withers as, “the last African-American Everyman.” Of himself, Withers claims he’s, “not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with.” Grammy Award-winning and Hall of Fame songwriter Bill Withers composed timeless songs from the soul that will live in R&B, rock and pop music for lifetimes to come, though he spent just over eight years in the music industry.