I have a relationship with the song Killing Me Softly. It’s something I can confidently say is ironic.
The words, you see, are about seeing someone sing a song and the song is like your life is being sang about. This has no resonance with me. I don’t feel that this song – or any other song – feels like someone singing my life. Mainly because that song would probably be immensely dull. “I heard you were quite a fat man, embittered by everything, but you have nothing to be angry about so maybe just get some perspective, laaa-la-la-laaaaaaaaaaaaa-lah.”
The song that is about a song meaning something very personal and intimate means something to me just because of the song itself. It holds no resonance on any other level. I told you I was confident about it being ironic.
Is it particularly beautiful? I clearly think so but I couldn’t say it was an amazing piece of music if I remove how the melody grabs me. As far as songwriting goes it has a fair bit of whooooooaaaaahh-whooooooaaaaa ahhhhhhhhh-ooohhhhhhhhhh laaaa-laaaaaa-aaaaahhhh.
Where does it fit in my life? Well I am not immensely cool so it was The Fugees that introduced it to me. Meaning that despite the beautiful melody and poetic lyrics there is a part of me that feels the song is incomplete without Wycleaf Jean saying “one time” throughout.
The same year there was a BBC drama about an abused woman that was called Killing Me Softly that used the Roberta Flack version as the title music. This immediately superseded the Fu-Gees version in my affections (like the Black Eyed Peas would replace the Fu-Gees in the hearts of people who like pop-music, hip-hop and soul music combined with a well dressed fella saying things intermittently).
Until about 19 minutes ago I would have said “the Roberta Flack original” when I talked about Flack’s Killing Me Softly. But it isn’t, it ruddy isn’t the original version. Fortunately an exhaustive few days at a series of international research libraries led me to find out the truth behind (my own) preconception and find out it all based on folk-singer Lori Lieberman’s feelings at seeing Don McLean perform*.
Even more fortunately for all concerned the Flack version is definitely still the best now I’ve heard the original. Phew.
It must be annoying to write a song that is good but just not quite there and then someone tinkle with something and make it there. Sure, you get pretty rich off the back off the whole endeavour but that song, which could be incredible meaningful – of course it could be something you wrote with a formula and used words that fit a melody, is forever associated with that other person. To have your creation as the inverted commas in someone else’s name must hurt a bit.
There is also a non-sequitur: the song appears in the film About A Boy. Perhaps it is the only song Hugh Grant has sang on screen. It is one of my favourite books and I really like the film. The use of the song adds nothing nor detracts anything to/from my affections for the song. Recently I happened upon the film flicking through Sky and I couldn’t help but feel the serious depression and suicide of one of the female leads is merely a story device to enable the real story of the film, affluent man who is drifting through life has meaning thrust upon him, to bear fruit. Made me like the film less. Not dislike it. Just like a bit less.
*which probably did include American Pie, if the timelines workout as I think they do, but let’s not sully the moment.