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Friday, June 22, 2012

Empty Chair, Empty Heart

And I wonder if you know
That I never understood
That although you said you’d go
Until you did
I never thought you would.


Empty Chair is my absolute favorite Don McLean song. The song’s lyrics somehow capture heartbreak without being sappy. He sings about steps echoing in an empty room, a whiff of fragrance left behind, an empty chair, and facing another night of silence staring at the moonlight, at shadows that are no longer there.
Beautiful lyrics, haunting tune.
Best listened to when alone in a half-dark room. 

It was said that singer Lori Lieberman heard Don McLean singing this song in a concert, and inspired her to write a poem, which in turn inspired the song “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” (Lori Lieberman recorded the original version of Killing Me softly…)

Turns out to be not the case. As Charles Fox, the composer, recounted, "I think it's called an urban legend. It really didn't happen that way. Norman Gimbel and I wrote that song for a young artist whose name was Lori Lieberman. Norman had a book that he would put titles of songs, song ideas and lyrics or something that struck him at different times. And he pulled out the book and he was looking through it, and he says, 'Hey, what about a song title, 'Killing Me Softly With His Blues'?' Well, the 'killing me softly' part sounded very interesting, 'with his blues' sounded old fashioned in 1972 when we wrote it. So he thought for a while and he said, 'What about 'killing me softly with his song'? That has a unique twist to it.' So we discussed what it could be, and obviously it's about a song - listening to the song and being moved by the words. It's like the words are speaking to what that person's life is. Anyway, Norman went home and wrote an extraordinary lyric and called me later in the afternoon. I jotted it down over the phone. I sat down and the music just flowed right along with the words. And we got together the next morning and made a couple of adjustments with it and we played it for Lori, and she loved it, she said it reminds her of being at a Don McLean concert. So in her act, when she would appear, she would say that. And somehow the words got changed around so that we wrote it based on Don McLean, and even Don McLean I think has it on his Web site. But he doesn't know. You know, he only knows what the legend is."
In the meantime, “Empty Chairs” will always be the song that makes one stop and look far away with a glazed look in one’s eyes.
Read the lyrics, and listen:


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