THE 1000 BEST SONGS IN THE WORLD EVER.
251-Roberta Flack-The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
1972-Number 14 single.
Best Bit-At 0.34. It is said that the songs writer Ewan MacColl disliked the many cover versions of his song. He had a special section in his record collection for them entitled ‘The Chamber of Horrors.’ He said that the Elvis Presley 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.’
Ewan MacColl was born James Henry Miller on January 25th, 1915, in Broughton, Salford, Lancashire, England, After many years of poor health, having suffered the first of many heart attacks in 1979, he died following complications after having had heart surgery, on October 22nd, 1989, at the age of 74. MacColl was a Folk singer/songwriter, and a collector of traditional Folk songs. He was a Labour activist, and a communist throughout his life, and many of his songs were politically motivated. His extensive discography includes 17 solo Albums released between 1956-1972, and 41 Albums recorded with his third wife Peggy Seeger between 1958-1986. MacColl is the father of Kirsty MacColl (1959-2000) (see also best songs 32) whose mother was MacColl’s second wife Jean Newlove (1923-2017.)
MacColl wrote ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ in 1957 for (and probably about) his future wife, the Folk singer Peggy Seeger, with whom he was having an affair with, at that time he was still married to Jean Newlove. Seeger has said MacColl had been challenged to write a love song, given that his repertoire was largely political, and this song was his response. The first recording of the song was in 1960 by the Canadian Folk singer Bonnie Dobson, and over the course of the next few years the song grew in popularity, with versions recorded by artists such as Peter, Paul and Mary, and Gordon Lightfoot.
Roberta Cleopatra Flack was born on February 10th, 1937, she has released 19 studio Albums between 1969-2018, which includes two Albums in collaboration with Donny Hathaway (see also best songs 541.) She has also released 48 singles between 1969-2021, of which 11 have made the American Billboard top 40, while in the UK she has charted on six occasions. In America ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ spent six weeks at Number 1, and was the best selling single in that country in 1972.
Roberta Flack had originally recorded the song in 1969 for her debut Album ‘First Take,’ but it was not released as a single until receiving exposure in the 1971 Clint Eastwood film ‘Play Misty for Me’ (see also best songs 706.) The story goes that Eastwood first heard the song on his car radio while driving down the L.A. Freeway. He phoned Flack and 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.’ The pair came to an agreement where Eastwood paid Roberta Flack $2,000 for the rights.
Roberta Flack has said about the song,’It’s a perfect song, second only to “Amazing Grace, I think.”It’s the kind of song that has two unique and distinct qualities, it tells a story, and it has lyrics that mean something. Because of it’s 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 first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes, and the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave, to the dark and the endless skies.’