|"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"|
|Single by Roberta Flack|
|from the album First Take|
|Released||March 7, 1972|
|Roberta Flack singles chronology|
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is a 1957 folk song written by Scottish political singer/songwriter Ewan MacColl for Peggy Seeger, who later became his wife. At the time, the couple were lovers, although MacColl was still married to his second wife, Jean Newlove. Seeger sang the song when the duo performed in folk clubs around Britain. During the 1960s, it was recorded by various folk singers and became a major international hit for Roberta Flack in 1972, winning Grammy Awards for Record of the Yearand Song of the Year. Billboard ranked it as the number one Hot 100 single of the year for 1972.
There are two differing accounts of the origin of the song. MacColl said that he wrote the song for Seeger after she asked him to pen a song for a play she was in. He wrote the song and taught it to Seeger over the telephone.Seeger said that MacColl, with whom she had begun an affair in 1957, used to send her tapes to listen to while they were apart and that the song was on one of them.
Peggy Seeger has said that MacColl had been challenged to write a love song (given that his repertoire was largely political) and this song was his response.[ citation needed ]
The song entered the pop mainstream when it was released by the Kingston Trio on their 1962 hit album New Frontier and in subsequent years by other pop folk groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary, The Brothers Four, Joe and Eddie, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and by Gordon Lightfoot on his debut album Lightfoot! (1966).
MacColl made no secret of the fact that he disliked all of the cover versions of the song. His daughter-in-law wrote: "He hated all of them. He had a special section in his record collection for them, entitled 'The Chamber of Horrors'. He said that the Elvis version was like Romeo at the bottom of the Post Office Tower singing up to Juliet. And the other versions, he thought, were travesties: bludgeoning, histrionic, and lacking in grace."
|Roberta Flack on "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"|
|It's a perfect song. Second only to "Amazing Grace, I think... "It's the kind of song that has two unique & distinct qualities: it tells a story, & it has lyrics that mean something....Because of [its meaningful lyrics] the [song] can be interpreted by a lot of people in a lot of different ways: the love of a mother for a child, for example, or [that of] two lovers." "I wish more songs I had chosen had moved me the way that one did. I've loved [most] every song I've recorded, but that one was pretty special."|
The song was popularised by Roberta Flack in 1969 in a version that became a breakout hit for the singer.
Flack knew the song from the Joe & Eddie version which appeared on that folk duo's 1963 album Coast to Coast (as "The First Time"), Flack's friend singer Donal Leace having brought the track to Flack's attention. [ citation needed ] Flack would recall that while she made her studio recording of "The First Time..." she felt the loss of her pet cat, Flack having two days earlier returned home to Washington D. C. from Detroit (where she had played her first non-local engagement) to find that her cat had been run over and died.Having taught the song to the young girls in the glee club at Banneker High School (Washington D.C.), Flack would regularly perform "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" in her set-list at the Pennsylvania Avenue club Mr Henry's where Flack was hired as resident singer in 1968. In February 1969 Flack would record the song for her debut album First Take , her rendition of which was much slower paced than Seeger's original, Flack's take running more than twice the two and a half minute length of Seeger's.
Flack's slow and sensual version was used by Clint Eastwood in his 1971 directorial film debut: Play Misty for Me to score a love scene featuring Eastwood and actress Donna Mills. Flack would recall how Eastwood, who had heard her version of "The First Time..." on his car radio while driving down the LA Freeway, phoned out of the blue to her Alexandria (Virginia) home: (Roberta Flack quote:)"[Eastwood said:] 'I'd like to use your song in this movie...about a disc jockey [with] a lot of music in it. I'd use it in the only part of the movie where there's absolute love.' I said okay. We discussed the money.[Eastwood would pay $2000 to use Flack's "The First Time..."] He said: 'Anything else?' And I said: 'I want to do it over again. It's too slow.' He said: "No, it's not.'"
Flack also recalled that, during the First Take sessions, her producer Joel Dorn had suggested re-recording "The First Time..." with a slightly speeded tempo and lyric edit to trim its running time, but Flack had not then been agreeable: (Roberta Flack quote:)"Joel said: 'Okay you don't care if it's a hit or not?' I said: 'No sir.' Of course he was right for three years, until [after] Clint got it." Flack's version of "The First Time..." exploded in popularity following the November 1971 release of Play Misty For Me. This persuaded Atlantic Records to issue the track as a single - trimmed by a minute - in February 1972: the track became a smash hit single in the United States, reaching No. 1 for six weeks on both the Billboard Hot 100 and easy listening charts in the spring of 1972, with a No. 4 R&B chart peak. Reaching No. 14 on the UK Singles Chart, Flack's "The First Time..." was No. 1 for three weeks on the singles chart in Canada's RPM magazine.
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" was played as the wake-up music on flight day 9 to the astronauts aboard Apollo 17, on their last day in Lunar orbit (Friday, December 15, 1972) before returning to earth, thus ending the last human explorations of the Moon. The use of the song was most likely a reference to the "face" of the moon below the spacecraft.
The American series Glee featured a cover version of the song in the episode “Yes/No”. It was sung by Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz), Rachel Berry (Lea Michelle).
In 2014, two films featured the song: Flack's version was heard twice in the superhero film X-Men: Days of Future Past , set largely in 1973, while a "cover" of it was performed by one of the protagonists in The Inbetweeners 2 for comic effect.
Flack's version from First Take was used as the outro in episode 88 of the television series Mad Men in 2015; in 2016 the same version was featured in the finale episode of the HBO series The Night Of and played in the background of Episode 3 of the FX Cable TV Miniseries The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story .
A version by UNKLE is played over the closing credits of the 2014 film Shelter .
In November 2020, English singer-songwriter James Blake played a cover of the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
James Henry Miller, better known by his stage name Ewan MacColl, was a folk singer songwriter, folk song collector, labour activist and actor, born in England of Scottish parents. He is known as one of the integrators of the 1960s folk revival as well as writing such songs as "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Dirty Old Town".
Roberta Cleopatra Flack is an American singer. She is known for her No. 1 singles "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", "Killing Me Softly with His Song", "Feel Like Makin' Love"; and "Where Is the Love" and "The Closer I Get to You", two of her many duets with Donny Hathaway.
"You've Got a Friend" is a 1971 song written by Carole King. It was first recorded by King and included in her album Tapestry. Another well-known version is by James Taylor from his album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. His was released as a single in 1971, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The two versions were recorded simultaneously in 1971 with shared musicians.
Margaret "Peggy" Seeger is an American folksinger. She is also well known in Britain, where she has lived for more than 60 years, and was married to the singer and songwriter Ewan MacColl until his death in 1989.
"Killing Me Softly with His Song" is a song composed by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel. The lyrics were written in collaboration with Lori Lieberman after she was inspired by a Don McLean performance in late 1971. Lieberman released her version of the song in 1972, but it did not chart. In 1973 it became a number-one hit in the United States, Australia and Canada for Roberta Flack, also reaching number six in the UK Singles Chart. In 1996, Fugees recorded the song with Lauryn Hill on lead vocals, their version became a number-one hit in twenty countries. The version by Flack won the 1974 Grammy for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and the version by Fugees won the 1997 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The song has been covered by many other artists.
Touch Me in the Morning is the fourth studio album by American singer Diana Ross, released on June 22, 1973, by Motown Records. It reached number 5 in the USA and sold around 650,000 copies. The arrangements were by Gene Page, Tom Baird, Michael Randall, James Anthony Carmichael, Deke Richards, Gil Askey and Ross.
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" is a song by Phil Spector, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, first recorded in 1964 by the American vocal duo the Righteous Brothers, whose version was also produced by Spector and is cited by some music critics as the ultimate expression and illustration of his Wall of Sound recording technique. The record was a critical and commercial success on its release, reaching number one in early February 1965 in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The single ranked No. 5 in Billboard's year-end Top 100 of 1965 Hot 100 hits – based on combined airplay and sales, and not including three charted weeks in December 1964 – and has entered the UK Top Ten on an unprecedented three occasions.
"Turn! Turn! Turn!", or "Turn! Turn! Turn! ", is a song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s and first recorded in 1959. The lyrics – except for the title, which is repeated throughout the song, and the final two lines – consist of the first eight verses of the third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. The song was originally released in 1962 as "To Everything There Is a Season" on folk group the Limeliters' album Folk Matinee, and then some months later on Seeger's own The Bitter and the Sweet.
"Rockin' Robin" is a song written by Leon René under the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas, and recorded by Bobby Day in 1958. It was Day's biggest hit single, becoming a number two hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and spent one week at the top of the charts in R&B sales. Michael Jackson recorded his own version of the song in 1972, which achieved greater success.
"Tonight, I Celebrate My Love" is a romantic ballad written by lyricist Gerry Goffin with Michael Masser and recorded by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack for their 1983 album of duets, Born to Love, issued as the lead single. The track—produced by Masser—became a million-selling international hit.
First Take is the debut album by the American soul singer Roberta Flack. It was released on June 20, 1969 by Atlantic Records. After a track from this album, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", was included by Clint Eastwood in his 1971 film Play Misty for Me with the song becoming a number 1 hit in the United States, the album reached number 1 on the Billboard album chart and Billboard R&B album chart. In the 2020 edition of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, the album was ranked number 451.
"Song Sung Blue" is a 1972 hit song written and recorded by Neil Diamond, inspired by the second movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto #21. It was released on Diamond's album Moods, and later appeared on many of Diamond's live and compilation albums. The song was a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States for one week, the week of July 1, and it spent twelve weeks in the Top 40. It also made the pop chart in the United Kingdom, reaching #14 on the UK Singles Chart.
"Feel Like Makin' Love" is a song composed by singer-songwriter Eugene McDaniels, and recorded originally by soul singer-songwriter Roberta Flack. The song has been covered by several R&B and jazz artists.
"Where Is the Love" is a popular song written by Ralph MacDonald and William Salter, and recorded by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Released in 1972 from their album, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway. It peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and spent a week each at number one on the Billboard Easy Listening chart and R&B chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 58 song for 1972. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
"I Gotcha" is a song by Joe Tex. Originally intended for King Floyd, instead Tex recorded it himself in the late 1960s, but did not release it at that time. He decided to re-record it in late 1971 and released it as the B-side of "A Mother's Prayer", the first single from his 1972 album I Gotcha. Mostly spoken in the form of an early rap song, with few singing passages, "I Gotcha" has the singer admonishing a woman for playing with his affections: "You never shouldn't have promised if you weren't gonna do it".
The 1972 Atlantic release Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway is a million-selling duet album by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway produced by Joel Dorn and Arif Mardin.
The Best of Roberta Flack is Roberta Flack's first compilation album, released in 1981.
This discography documents albums and singles released by American recording artist Roberta Flack.
Kirsty Anna MacColl was a British singer and songwriter. She recorded several pop hits in the 1980s and 1990s, including "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" and cover versions of Billy Bragg's "A New England" and The Kinks' "Days". Her song "They Don't Know" was covered with great success by Tracey Ullman. MacColl also sang on recordings produced by her then-husband Steve Lillywhite, most notably "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues.
Alone Again (Naturally) is the thirtieth studio album by American pop singer Andy Williams, released in September 1972 by Columbia Records and mainly consisting of songs originated by other artists. For its release in the UK, the album was titled The First Time Ever , and three of the songs were replaced with the 7-inch single tracks "Who Was It?" and "Marmalade, Molasses & Honey" and a recording that was not released on vinyl in the U.S., "If You're Gonna Break Another Heart".
peggy seeger the first time ever i saw your face.