The song, and the story behind it, from their upcoming album, “Round The World”
There’s something special anytime that Jana Herzen and Charnett Moffett make music together. It’s pure, soulful and especially beautiful to hear now, maybe more than ever.
She’s a great singer-songwriter-guitarist who has championed countless other artists on the Motéma label. He’s one of the finest jazz bassists playing today, having worked with a long list of legendary luminaries of jazz, including Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman and Sonny Sharrock.
We’re happy to bring you a premiere of their new acoustic rendition of a modern standard, “Killing Me Softly.” It’s from their upcoming all-acoustic jazz/folk album duo album, Round the World, which comes out in May. Covering a generous range of songs, from new ones by Jana, as well as songs by Men at Work, The Beatles, Kermit the Frog, and this song, being released as a single today, “Killing Me Softly.”
The story of this song, written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, who also wrote “I Got A Name” for Jim Croce and more, is one of those stories which makes the song itself even more dimensional and poignant. We asked Jana if she would share with us why she chose this song, not knowing if she knew much about the origins of the song.
She did. She knew that story behind the song, as well as the story behind the story. All of which informed and inspired this beautiful new version, which we’re happy to bring you today. Here’s Jana on “Killing Me Softly.”
JANA HERZEN: When I first heard Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” on the radio in the 1970s, the song immediately called me to try my own version as it has called so many singers since then. Indeed, the song called to Roberta Flack as well, who first heard the original by Lori Lieberman’s on an airplane, who immediately set about learning the words and melody.
When a song attracts so many artists to cover it, it speaks to the power of that song to universally vibrate our heartstrings.
Interestingly, “Killing Me Softly” was actually written about that same magical power of another song, “Empty Chairs”, by Don Mclean, which Lori Lieberman said “went right through her” as she listened to him sing it at The Troubadour in 1971:
“I felt all flushed with fever… embarrassed by the crowd… I felt he’d found my letters and read each one out loud…’
She related her experience to her “writing and management team” – Norm Gimbel and Charles Fox – and they crafted it into a song which became a mega-hit for Flack in 1973 and for The Fugees in 1996, and inspired over two hundred cover recordings in multiple genres since.
Charnett and I here approach it with a laid-back jazz feel, which we hope you enjoy.
The lyrics, though painful, are deliciously releasing to sing. I think that’s the song’s secret of success. We all have pain that we’re hiding, and this song both touches that pain and helps us let it go.
A wise cousin of mine once said that “Music is the thing that lets us feel things that we didn’t know we felt.” So true.
As a footnote, I’d like to say that being invited to write about this song, led me to research its history, read Lori Lieberman’s life story, and listen to her original version, which is really quite lovely. I was sad to learn that she didn’t get credited for her writing contributions to “Killing Me Softly,” and that as a young singer she was taken advantage of in a variety of ways. Only after a long exodus from the business, did she come fully into her own voice, and relaunch her career on her own terms, eventually revealing, in brilliant poetic detail, her #metoo music biz experience with her brilliant song “Cup of Girl.” It went right through me when I heard it. and made me feel (and release) something that I didn’t know I felt.
Brava, Lori, and thank you for your courage and wit.
For more on this album and the other music and artists from this company: Motéma