Back in February, I published an interview with singer/songwriter Lori Lieberman which touched on ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’ – a composition which Lori recorded prior to Roberta Flack. We also spoke about how the song came about and the fact that in recent years, the song’s composers, Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, had gone into print to attest that Lori had had no involvement in its creation. Now, the acclaimed writer, Sean Derek, has shared her recollections concerning the true origins of ‘Killing Me Softly…’

Sean Derek writes:
“For quite some time I’ve tried to ignore this controversy, given my admiration for both sides and my preference to remain anonymous. However, I just can’t sit silent any longer knowing the truth about how it really happened.

I had the privilege to work for Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel in the 70’s. I can’t say I knew Charlie well, but I did become good friends with Norman.

Back in those days, while I was working for Fox-Gimbel Productions, Norman and Charlie eagerly promoted the fact that Killing Me Softly was inspired by Lori and the poem she wrote after seeing Don McLean perform live. Aside from it being absolutely true, it was great press for their song. At the time, no one doubted or questioned it, because if you listen to the lyrics, it is clearly from a woman’s point of view.

All of us that were there, now wonder why Norman and Charlie would suddenly change the story. Sadly, the only answer any of us can come up with: They are afraid that Lori has a legal claim as co-author, which would mean finally having to share a piece of an extremely lucrative pie.

I know Lori Lieberman; she doesn’t worship the almighty dollar as so many of us do. She genuinely loves creating music and has always been very proud to be the inspiration for what has become a timeless classic. She should be proud, without her there would be no Killing Me Softly.

Very sincerely, a firsthand witness,

Sean Derek”


  1. And I might add – I was the recording engineer who did the entire first album from mic, to mix to mastering. During that time I developed a friendship with Lori. Back in 2009 we had some email between us that started out with my asking if Lori remembered our working together. She Wrote back:

    “Do I ever!
    John, it was such a great experience for me as well. In fact,whenever I head down Vine I remember our lunch stand, and the time we walked down to that very weird “mall”— but mostly I remember you cheering me on during a tremendously difficult time in my life. I’m really happy to know you’re well.

    And while tremendous bitterness between Norman, Charlie and myself transpired (they eventually sued me and prevented me from recording for years), working with you will always remain a bright spot in my memory.

    I’m so glad you connected with me.”

    OK so Lori and I obviously were friendly at the time of the making of “Killing Me Softly.”

    I can also tell you that Lori’s version is 100% accurate. The fact she did not get a writing credit is ludicrous and she has been very quiet about that.

    My recollection is Norman was unhappy because his relationship with Lori was not working out – he was rather bitter about that as we completed the album (my impression). Towards the end of the project as I remember it Lori and Norman were virtually not speaking.

    I believe were they together prior to album credits etc. Lori would have been included in the credit for writing that song.

    As to Charlie Fox’s part in the situation: I had a great relationship with Charlie. I worked with him (them) on some Jim Croce stuff and more. Never would I have guessed Charlie would go sideways on at least crediting Lori for the poem. A great mystery that.

    In any case Lori Liberman is a great nearly unrecognized talent whose career might have just as easily gone to stardom had she not been handed a bad deal with Norman Gimbel – again my opinion.

    Another firsthand witness,
    John Wilson, Capitol Records Engineer

    1. Hi John,

      How great to hear from an authoratative voice about this contentious matter. Thank you for validating Lori’s recollections and adding some fascinating information about the recording of the album.

      So interesting to read.

      Many thanks again,


  2. As I heard and read the story many times, Lori shared her excitement about seeing Don McLean with her producers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel while they were making her album. Her story about how deeply McLean touched her inspired Gimbel and Fox to write “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. I never heard a word about a poem written by Lori. Not once. No one disputes Gimbel’s beautifully worded description “killing me softly with his somg” was anyone’s but his own. If telling an incredibly talented songwriting team about an experience you had, inspiring them to write a beautiful original song from a woman’s point of view (male songwriters workings with female singers have always done this and usually very well) constitutes anything close to a legal claim of collaboration, that would be the flimsiest claiam I’ve ever heard of.

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