Soulful singer Roberta Flack breezes through summer into a free Saturday concert in Marina del Rey
By Michael Aushenker
It’s been a sweet summer for iconic R&B and soul singer Roberta Flack.
The season began with one of her signature recordings — the velour-smooth 1972 hit “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” — making a recurring appearance as a running gag in the time-travel plot of this summer’s biggest Marvel superhero flick, “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
Now, summer closes with Flack performing said song and others, including her other Grammy winner, “Killing Me Softly” (she won consecutive Record of the Year honors), during a free concert on Saturday night at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey.
“That song speaks to people of all ages,” Flack wrote via email regarding “First Time.” “It doesn’t surprise me that it finds a place in a movie such as ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ this year any more than it found a place in ‘Play Misty for Me,’ directed by Clint Eastwood, in 1971. The song is about an experience that each of us knows personally, whether about a child, a lover or an experience.”
A cut from her album “First Take,” the nigh-melancholy love song “First Time” was Flack’s cover of a 1957 folk ditty originally written by British political singer Ewan MacColl, inspired by his romantic and professional partner, Peggy Seeger.
“First Time” may very well have been recorded during Flack’s first time out performing the song.
“‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ was done in very few takes,” Flack recalled. “That’s why that album is called ‘First Take.’ Many of those songs were only recorded once. In the days before editing and auto-tuning, we played the songs together straight through.”
Flack’s version became a global hit, as did its spiritual successor, “Killing Me Softly,” a year later, with both reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s singles chart. A third single, “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” also hit No. 1.
“Music is my first love,” she wrote. “From the time I was a child, music was at the center of my soul,” said Flack, who grew up playing piano in Arlington, Va.
At 77, Flack still delivers the passion and energy to recreate her old magic. Come Saturday, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine won’t be the only one transported back in time by the sound of her voice.
“I always say ‘love is a song,’” wrote Flack. “It’s how I choose to express myself to the world. And I’m so glad the world listens!”
Flack takes the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday at Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. Free. (310) 305-9595; chacepark.com