First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Album: First Take (1972)
Charted: 14 1
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  • This was the breakout hit for Roberta Flack; it was #1 in the US for six weeks. Flack had released two solo albums without commercial success, as her blend of jazz and folk styles struggled to find an audience. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Folk singer Ewan MacColl wrote this in 1957 for his lover, Peggy Seeger. She was in a play and phoned him for suggestions on a song for a romantic scene. MacColl wrote this on the spot in less than an hour, playing it over the phone for his wife to use in her play. "We weren't really getting along at the time," Peggy Seeger recalled to Mojo magazine of the romantic epic in a 2015 interview. "After all, he was married to someone else then."

    MacColl was married to his second wife, Jean Newlove, at the time. He left her for Peggy Seeger and the pair eventually tied the knot in 1977.
  • This was used in the 1972 Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty For Me. It gave a great deal of exposure to the mostly unknown Flack.
  • This won the Grammy awards in 1973 for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, beating out Don McLean's "American Pie" in both categories.
  • Many artists have covered this, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Mel Torme, Isaac Hayes, and Gordon Lightfoot.

    Peggy Seeger recorded her own dance version on Folksploitation, a 2012 album that found the 77-year-old folk-singer collaborating with a DJ/producer operating under the name Broadcaster. "I couldn't sing it for 15 years after Ewan died but now I love to," she told Mojo.
  • The title is the first words of the lyrics, but that is the only place those words appear.
  • Leona Lewis covered this on her 2007 debut album Spirit. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Roberta Flack admitted to Uncut magazine she had her doubts when Clint Eastwood called her about using the song for Play Misty For Me. She recalled: "I thought it was too slow. He was sure it wasn't. He was right - and I was pleasantly surprised."
  • Roberta Flack was introduced to "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" when her singer friend Donal Leace played her the folk duo Joe & Eddie's 1963 version. Flack, who was teaching at the time, fell in love with the song and taught it to the young girls in the Glee Club at Washington DC's Banneker Junior High School.

    Flack would regularly perform "The First Time" at the Pennsylvania Avenue club Mr. Henry's where she was a resident singer. After signing with Atlantic records, it was one of her first choices when it came to choosing tracks for her debut album. "The tempo and arrangement of the song came as a part of the way I felt the story of the song," she explained to Songwriter Universe. "When you express your feelings about the first time you ever see a great love, you don't rush the story."

Comments: 28

  • AnonymousTotal class and act, full of heart and soul.
  • Michael Kesner from Oregoni remember this song when i lived on okinawa from 1970 to 1973, it was an extended version, maybe 10 minutes long, in a black and white video, showing a couples life from the beginning to the end of their life - it was so beautiful, played on TV everyday and it always brought tears - wish i could find that video somewhere so i can see it again
  • Jessica Eaton from MaineRe Robert from Johns Creek, Ga. Actually First Time (Ever I saw Your Face) was written about Peggy Seeger. Perhaps you're thinking of Killing Me Softly, another hit by Roberta Flack.
  • Robert from Johns Creek, GaIt was written about Don McClean.
  • Bestmate from BournemouthThis song captivated my very soul, with its sentimental, quiet and beautiful lyrics. I let the tears flow, as I drifted away to distant times of lost love.
  • Robert from Ottawa, OnHilda - Ct. --> That is the most romantic posting I've ever seen. Beautiful.
  • Hilda from Ct.Heard the song once, bought the album for my boyfriend who later became my husband. Together for 39 years. When I think of him now, 5 years after he passed away, this song still describes how I felt/feel about him, especially the first line.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 19th 1973, Roberta Flack performed "Jesse" on her own ABC-TV special 'Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever'...
    A little under three months later on September 16th, 1973 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #83; five weeks later on October 21st, 1973 it would peak at #30 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 9 weeks...
    It reached #3 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and #19 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    The song was surrounded by #1 records; her two previous releases, "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly with His Song", both peaked and #1; then "Jesse" was succeeded by "Feel Like Makin' Love", which also reached #1...
    "Jesse" was composed by Janis Ian; and Ms. Ian would record it herself for her 1974 album 'Stars'.
  • Barry from BakuEwan McColl wrote this song after seeing his little daughter's face for the first time, just after she was born. He made it into a love song for his wife as well.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 27th 1972, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberto Flack entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #77; and six weeks later of April 9th, 1972 it peaked at #1 {for 6 weeks} and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    And March 26th, 1972 it also reached #1 and for also 6 weeks on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart {plus it peaked at #1 in Canada and Australia}...
    It prevented "Rockin' Robin" by Michael Jackson and "I Gotcha" by Joe Tex from reaching #1, both peaked at #2 on the Top 100…
    Was track six from her debut album, 'First Take', the album was released in 1969 and three years later on April 23rd, 1972 it peaked at #1 {for 5 weeks} on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart.
  • Sandra from Traralgon, AustraliaI was told years ago that Roberta wrote this song about her little black kitten...I saw a reference a few comments back about a cat that was killed on tour possibly a true story then...either way..a lovely song :)
  • Kimberly from Landing, NjThe first time you feel the earth, u feel your soul move as eyes tell the truth, like a romantic novel. ty
  • Mark from Mchenry, IlRoberta Flack's recording of this song is one of the most beautiful things ever recorded.
  • Michael Scott from Punta Gorda, FlMost of the songs' lyrics don't match what is sung. The original recording sounds different, I have it on 8 track, the last verse is about the same as the first except the last 2 words are repeated twice.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThis song was #1 for six weeks; then her next release, "Killing Me Softly With His Song", stayed at #1 for five weeks. It was followed by "Jesse" which only reached #30, but she roared back with "Feel Like Makin' Love", which peaked at #1 for one week!!!
  • Ricky from Ohsweken, -THE best setting for listening to this a room in COMPLETE darkness (& NO closing your eyes is NOT the same LOL). Anyone agree?
  • P from Chicago, IlIn the original recording, the last line is "I THOUGHT our joy would fill the earth...." With R. Flack's cover, the line is, "I KNEW our joy would fill the earth..."

    That one word, for me, changes it from someone reminiscing about a past love to someone singing about a current relationship.

    Both renditions are beautiful, but it's interesting how a much impact a little nuance in the lyrics can have.
  • Cynthia Haynes from Bridgeton, Njthis song can make anyone feel like they want to be in love with someone .this is the song me and my and my husband everynight before we go to bed it reminds us what love was all about in the in the seventies
  • Mike from Seattle, WaI saw her on Merv Griffin or a sim. show in the mid 70's. I had to refresh my understanding of the story again, but according to her, she cried during the recording of this song. She was thinking of a lost love- Sancho Panza. Sancho was no ordinary man, in fact he wasn't even human. He was her cat that had gotten killed when she was touring. She found out when she got home, just two days before going into the recording studio. Apparently, he crept crept back into her memory.
  • Ron from Atlanta, GaAlex of Melbourne, Australia wants to know how Roberta Flack got onto "The First Time Ever" 15 years after Ewan MacColl wrote it. I learned it from the Chad Mitchell Trio album "Reflecting" (1964?). In the fall of 1966, while working at the Host Farm, a resort hotel in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I gave the lyrics and guitar chords to Morgan Ames, who was performing at the piano bar. In the summer of 1974(?) My wife and I saw Roberta Flack perform at the Valley Forge Music Fair outside Philadelphia. She introduced the song by saying that she learned it from her "good friend Morgan Ames". Ron White, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Fred from Laurel, MdThe first time ever I heard this song (sorry, I couldn't resist that!) was by Peter, Paul, & Mary, on their album, 'See What Tomorrow Brings' (1965). It totally blew me away. That's still my favorite version, although I really like what Roberta did with it, too. But if you haven't heard the PPM version, get it -- you won't regret it. *** Don (Shreveport), actually, they don't. If RF did the song this way, it was her own artistic touch, not the original version.
  • John from Pick One, Netherlands@Esther, Liverpool:

    Started collecting this song in 2002, I have 46 different recordings by 42 artists.
  • Grace from Astoria, Nyevery time i hear this song i think about my two nieces and my always makes me bawl like a baby because it is such a beautiful song.grace,new york
  • Paul from Worthing, EnglandA lovely song, never fails to bring a lump to the throat.
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiawhat a great love song, remember seeing a tv testimonial for Clint Eastwood years ago , it was like a dinner type setting , Roberta got up and sang this song ....great stuff
  • Don from Shreveport, LaSomeone wrote: "The title is the first words of the lyrics, but that is the only place those words appear."

    Actually, no. They also comprise the end of the song, repeated twice.
  • Alex from Melbourne, AustraliaAnyone know how Roberta Flack got on to this song 15 years after it was written by MacColl?
  • Esther from Liverpool, EnglandThis is one of my favourite songs :) it has been covered quite a lot, by George Micheal, The Stereophonics and Celine Dion.
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