Roberta Flack was 27 when the Beatles released their first album in the United States. Then, in the same year that Flack released her debut album, “First Take,” the Beatles put out “Abbey Road.”
It would be hard for any musician of that era not to have been influenced by the Fab Four, and Flack, now 74, certainly picked up something from the quartet. These days, she’s putting her own spin on the Beatles’ catalog, readying a cover album and performing at the New York Celebrates George Harrison Concert the day after the late Beatle’s birthday, February 26.
amNY spoke with Flack about cover songs and her own songs being covered:
Why the Beatles? While I was working during the day and moonlighting in clubs, the songs I was hearing were “Yesterday” and “Something.” So it was natural to be singing these during that time.
As someone who has been covered before, how do you approach covering other artists’ work? I approach it by being totally honest. I love stories in songs with a beginning, middle and end. I love it when they’re simple and direct.
How did George Harrison’s work, with the Beatles and solo, differ from that of his bandmates? George Harrison was determined to be an Indian mystic. He felt really strongly about that side of himself, and a lot of his songs have a scale that is traditionally Indian.
It’s been 15 years since the Fugees released “The Score,” which featured their take on “Killing Me Softly.” With that much time having passed, what kind of lasting impact did their cover have on you? It didn’t change much for me. What it did was make people buy my albums, which is something. But it’s such a great album. And if they had done it like I had, it wouldn’t have worked. But they added that hip-hop beat and the “one time, two times,” and it tapped into that bigger heartbeat.
If you go
Roberta Flack is performing at the New York Celebrates George Harrison Concert on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the New York Society of Ethical Culture, 2 W. 64th St., flowerpower creative.com, $40-$100