Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly

Roberta Flack achieved great successes in show business. Two times, year after year awarded with Grammy in category Record of the Year, and many other wins or nominations decide she is one of brightest stars of American song. To achieve this position she needed to join talent and everyday hard working. In her childhood she was trained in music and tending to be classical concert pianist. She studied on Howard University, but after sudden death of her father she was forced to take a job. She was working as teacher of music and English in Maryland, North Carolina and in Washington, D. C. The same time she was performing as pianist and vocalist and quietly becoming the sensitive interpreter and independent stage personality.
Successes did not have long to wait. In her student period she directed Howard University performance of Aida which was approved with standing ovation. But stunning career does not spoil her. She is deeply engaged in social issues. She is member of academic sororities, activist for education, human and civil rights. She is active in education and equal opportunities for children from poor and marginalized families. She works with Hyde Leadership Chart School in Bronx providing free music education to underprivileged students under name The Roberta Flack School of Music. She is also spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly (1973)

Fifth album by Roberta Flack, Killing Me Softly released on August 14, 1973 has been recorded in 2 years span from 1971 to 1973. This was her greatest success. Eight songs of clearly poetic mood and perfectly smooth arrangements became hallmark of the era. In her repertoire she was close to poetic songs of Leonard Cohen. She was singing some of his songs – on debut album it was Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye and on Killing Me Softly it was song closing the B-Side creative version of Susan. Flack’s connections with Leonard Cohen’s works are reasonable – this was the best moment in Cohen’s career and his songs perfectly fit to the worlds Roberta Flack was creating. The same with some other songwriters like Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel authors of title song or authoring duo Ralph MacDonald, William Salter, authors of hit song When You Smile. By the way, it’s amazing how much beauty and positive emotions could be included in the songs of that era.
Among many musicians recording material for this album, some were prominent jazz artists. Two double-bass players left their clear marks on this music – both known from Flack’s prior recordings – Ron Carter and Terry Plumeri who composed one of most beautiful songs on this album Conversation Love dedicated to Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Drummer Grady Tate, guitarist Eric Gale and conductors and arrangers Don Sebesky and Eumir Deodato were most active in the group of musicians who helped Roberta Flack to create this amazing record. In fact musical material of Killing Me Softly is no longer a jazz song, and definitely not a pop music, even considering its popularity. More careful judgment should classify most of the settings to the soul with elements of R&B and smooth jazz sound. But most of all this is highly personal, emotional and sincere artistic statement of Roberta Flack. If one wants to understand the spirit of the early seventies, Killing Me Softly as well as her debut First Take and any other album can be really helpful. Anybody who loves good song with poetic approach will find Roberta Flack’s recordings as simply indispensable.

No comments:

Post a Comment