Childhood Cassettes looks at the tapes we listened to as young rapscallions. Today’s edition is all about Roberta Flack (and friends).
It’s been just over a year since the last edition and today’s follows a similar theme. Most of the music I was exposed to came courtesy of my dad and his car mixtapes. One of them featured Roberta Flack and some extras, but I’ve left off the extras (as I forgot what they were!)
Most people know Roberta Flack for Killing Me Softly or Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. That’s a shame in some ways; they are both covers (and Killing Me Softly was then covered by The Fugees’ which overshadows Flack’s version in popularity). Nothing wrong with covers, of course, but their popularity obscure the rest of her exquisite catalogue. That’s to be expected but I always knew her from her third compilation album, Softly with These Songs: The Best of Roberta Flack, released in 1993.
I knew nothing of “compilations” or “greatest hits” as a pre-teen. These songs were the soundtrack of many car journeys in the 90s and 00s. Roberta Flack was the second strongest black woman in my life behind my mother back then. Each song carried its own story and memory: Killing Me Softly weaved a tale of heartbreaking love, which was new territory for me at the age of 5. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow was so beautiful but so sad, More Than Everything was the most fantastic song I’d ever heard up to that point and I never wanted it to end.
But the song that had the biggest impact was Back Together Again, a duet with Donny Hathaway. It was so funky, I made up a dance to it in the car. I got excited, knowing it was coming up when my dad played the cassette. I never vocalised how much I loved the music on the cassettes but they meant so much to me. The love of Roberta Flack, amongst so many other artists, helped create the foundations for my adoration of music today. She was a paving stone on the path towards this very website and I am eternally grateful for that.
Not all the songs featured on that cassette were available on Spotify.
- The Steve Hurley House Mix of Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) was replaced by the original album track
- The version of Only Heaven Can Wait (For Love) I knew was actually a two-part medley including You Are My Heaven but the latter wasn’t on the cassette
- Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye wasn’t on the compilation album, and given the quality of the recording on my dad’s cassette, he must have got it off another older cassette. I also thought it was sung by Judy Boucher as she was on that same mixtape. I can’t remember whether he wrote the name wrong or I just mixed it up but I didn’t realise my error for years.
Stream it below.