Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly With His Song

First Hit #1: February 24, 1973

There’s a bit of a rabbit hole on this one, being that it’s a song about a song, which is about something else that is never explained. The official version is that it was inspired by one Don McLean, he of American Pie fame – though from further reading it seems to be about a different song, making me feel like a bit of an ass. The inspiration isn’t important, what is important is that the song manages to be music about music that still has enough power on its own.

It’s a compelling idea, that one could feel as though a song is written about them. It’s usually brought out in a positive way, such as a love song feeling as though it’s about a happy couple, but approaching it from the opposite direction is what gives this track its power. People don’t want to relive their pain, people want to push it in a corner and move on. Sometimes, pain comes back through unexpected sources, anything from a familiar sight to an object associated with the memory. It makes sense that a song could connect to those feelings, even if the singer didn’t quite know the experiences of a certain member of the audience. It might unintentionally connect to a certain sadness, but once that connection is made it’s difficult to shake. In this particular song, the singer sounds as though attacked by the words and the young man on stage, whether or not that person is actually familiar with them and their life it still seems intimate and tough.

I’ve never had a song make me feel as though my life is on display. A movie came close – the content was different, but the emotions uncomfortably familiar – and I can understand that the possibility exists. Music is a powerful medium, and this is a great example of the way that power can work.

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