50 Years Ago Today: Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ Hits Number One
It was 50 years ago this week (April 15th through April 22nd, 1972) that Roberta Flack scored her first Number One hit with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” The song was nearly three-years-old when director Clint Eastwood tapped it for inclusion in his movie Play Misty For Me, about a disc jockey, set against the backdrop of the Monterey Jazz Festival. It was the song’s inclusion in the movie, which led to an edited version of the song going on to top the charts for six weeks.
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was written by songwriter Ewan MacCall about future wife Peggy Seeger — who was the sister of folk singer Pete Seeger. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” replaced America‘s “A Horse With No Name” at the Number One spot on April 15th, 1972, and went on to snag the 1973 Grammy Awards for both Record and Song Of The Year.
Flack says that she’s still awed by the beauty of the song, and considers herself lucky to have been able to have recorded it: “It’s great to have this kind of career and to be blessed to have people love your music. And the song itself is such a great song. And I’m so blessed to have been able to hear that song as the beauty that it is and to just it sing through me.”
She says that she’s always taken pride in the fact that her music has been inspiring romance for decades: “So many of my songs are associated with loving moments for people. I had a woman walk up to me one day and say after a show, ‘Miss Flack, I love you and I love ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’ When I heard that song I was in college and I looked across the cafeteria and saw my husband, I married him and we had two beautiful children.'”
Among the many artists who have covered the song are Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Mel Torme, Isaac Hayes, Gordon Lightfoot and Celine Dion, among others.
Roberta Flack recently released her latest album, Let It Be Roberta – Roberta Flack Sings The Beatles.