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"Killing Me Softly with His Song" is a 1971 song composed by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel. It was inspired by Lori Lieberman's response to having seen a performance by Don McLean. It has been covered by numerous artists, most notably by Roberta Flack, whose version topped the U.S. pop singles charts, and won a Grammy Award.


Singer/songwriter Lori Lieberman wrote the song after she saw Don McLean singing his composition "Empty Chairs" in concert. Afterwards, Lieberman wrote a poem titled "Killing Me Softly with His Blues", which became the basis for the song written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.

Song and cover versions

Roberta Flack version

Lori Lieberman was the first to record Fox and Gimbel's song, in 1971. It became a bigger hit when covered by Roberta Flack in 1973. Her version won three Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Female Performer and it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. It was replaced by "Love Train" by The O'Jays, then returned to the top of the U.S. charts for another week. In 1999 Flack's version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Fugees version

Hip hop group The Fugees covered the song in 1996 on their album The Score, with Lauryn Hill singing the lead vocals. Their version, titled "Killing Me Softly," became a hit, reaching number two on the U.S. airplay chart, and had similar success in the UKmarker, reaching number one, becoming 1996's best selling single in the country. The version sampled the 1990 song "Bonita Applebum" by A Tribe Called Quest from their debut album People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. ATCQ temselves had sampled the riff from the song "Memory Band" found on the self-titled album of a little-known 1960s psychedelic soul Chicagomarker band called Rotary Connection. The Fugees single was so successful that the track was 'deleted' and thus no longer supplied to retailers whilst the track was still in the Top 20 so that attention could be drawn to the next single 'Ready or Not'. Propelled by the success of the Fugees track, the version by Flack was remixed in 1996 and topped the Hot Dance Club Play chart. In 2008, it was ranked number 25 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop and #44 on it's list of the "100 Greatest Songs of the 90s".

Track listing

  1. "Killing Me Softly"
  2. "Cowboys"
  3. "Nappy Heads"

Other versions

Other major artists to cover the song include Al B. Sure!, Carole King, Herb Alpert, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tori Amos, Alison Moyet, Eva Cassidy, Perry Como, Harry Connick, Jr., The Jackson 5, Mina, Anne Murray, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '77, Luther Vandross, Susan Boyle, Toni Braxton, Alicia Keys, Jaco Pastorius, The Plain White T's, The Youngblood Brass Band, Shirley Bassey, John Holt, Frank Sinatra, Vicki Lawrence and Usha Uthup. Versions performed by male artists reverse the gender pronouns.

In 1975, an instrumental version of "Killing Me Softly" served as the main musical theme of the film The Drowning Pool, starring Paul Newman. Charles Fox received credit as composer and conductor.

R&B artist Al B. Sure was the next to cover the song in 1988 on his debut album In Effect Mode... and experienced some success with it. He was voted the top new Male R&B solo artist in 1989.

A live instrumental version was recorded by Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers in 1998.

In 1999, Susan Boyle, an amateur singer that quickly rose to fame on the internet and news media after her appearance on Britain's Got Talent in 2009, used "all her savings" to pay for a professionally cut demo tape, which she later sent to record companies, radio talent competitions, local and national TV and which has now been released on the Internet. It consisted of "Cry Me a River" and her version of "Killing Me Softly with His Song". Boyle gave away a few copies to her close friends.

In popular culture

The song was prominently featured in the 2002 film About a Boy in which the boy of the title, Marcus, is ridiculed by classmates for singing the song, a favourite of his mother's, at his school talent show because of its feminine associations and its romantic, emotional lyrics.

In 2006 the song became a popular football chant with Irish football club Shelbourne F.C. with the lyrics changed to "Dillon Me Softly with His Song" regarding former defender Sean Dillon. The chant has since followed Dillon to his new club Dundee United F.C..

Flack's version ranked #360 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Flack's version also ranked at #82 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of all time.

Cover versions in other languages

Country Artist Title Translated title Lyrics by
Swedenmarker Lill Lindfors (1973), Lotta Engberg (1997) "Sången han sjöng var min egen" "The song he sang was my own"
Norwaymarker Inger Lise Rypdal "Sangen han sang var min egen" "The song he sang was my own"
Denmarkmarker Sanne Salomonsen "Søgte mit indre" "Sought my innermost"
Denmarkmarker Shu-Bi-Dua "Kylling med Soft Ice" "Chicken with soft serve" (parody)
Denmarkmarker Clemens "Flammende Oprør" (Rap containing samples from Sanne Salomonsen "Søgte mit indre") "Flaming rebellion"
Italymarker Marcella Bella (1973), Lara Saint Paul (1973), Ornella Vanoni (1973) "Mi fa morire cantando" "He kills me singing"
Estoniamarker Els Himma (1974) "Millest sa elad ja hingad" "Of what you live and breathe" Vally Ojavere
Brazilmarker Joanna (1991) "Morrendo de amor" "Dying of love"
Mexicomarker Pandora "Mátame muy suavemente" "Kill me very softly"
Japanmarker Mariko Takahashi, AI, Misato Watanabe, Saori Minami "Yasashiku Utatte" "Sing to me tenderly"
Argentinamarker Sergio Denis "Matándome suavemente" "Killing me softly"
Spainmarker Tino Casal "Tal como soy" "The way I am"
Spainmarker Pitingo "Suavemente me matas con tu canción" "You kill me softly with your song"
Germanymarker Manuela "Etwas in mir wurde traurig" "Something inside me became sad"
Czech Republicmarker Helena Vondráčková (1974) "Dvě malá křídla tu nejsou" "Two little wings are not here" Zdeněk Borovec
Finlandmarker Päivi Paunu (1973) "Jokainen päivä on liikaa" "Every day is too much"
Polandmarker Anna Jantar "Zabijasz mnie swoją piosenką" "You're killing me with your song"
Francemarker Gilbert Montagné "Elle chantait ma vie en musique" "She was singing my life in music"
Cubamarker Omara Portuondo (2006) "Matándome suavemente" "Killing me softly"
Vietnammarker Khánh Hà , Thùy Hương "Nỗi Đau Dịu Dàng" "Soft pain"
Greecemarker Αλέκα Καννελίδου "Πόσο γλυκά με σκοτώνεις" "How sweetly you kill me" Δημήτρης Ιατρόπουλος
Bulgariamarker Йорданка Христова (1973) "Всичко започна през юни" "It all started in June" Хр. Платов
Netherlandsmarker Foetsies "Hij maakt me gek" "He makes me crazy"


  1. Grammy Hall of Fame

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