Click Here To Purchase Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music

Author: Charles Fox

ISBN: 978-0-8108-8221-8

Publisher: Scarecrow Press Inc

For many of us growing up in the 1960's, 70's and 80's television shows as Happy Days, Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, Love, American Style as well as Monday Night Football and The Wide World of Sports were part of our weekly diet. And probably we still would remember many of the actors that starred in these shows. However, and I am included, unless you really are a maven, many of us would not be able to name the music legend and genius that composed the theme songs for them and is in fact the only artist to have had three TV songs in the top forty.

Charles Fox was eighteen when in the very early morning hours he met his piano teacher, who was walking her dog. He was just out of high school and she asked him what he was planning to do with his life. At the time, he hadn't a clue and it was then that his piano teacher informed him of a great and famous music teacher in Paris, Nadia Boulanger, who taught generations of American composers. She went on to ask him if he would like to study with her. For young Charles this was all a dream and after some planning and encouragement from his supportive parents, he found himself in Paris in the summer of 1958 at the Fontainebleau School, where Nadia taught and where he would stay until 1961. And so begins the first one hundred pages of Charles Fox's Killing Me Softly: My Life In Music which is organized into three main sections, Letters from Paris, 1959-1961, New York, 1961-1967 and Hollywood, 1968-Present, and which contain stories that had the greatest influence on his life in music, as well as shedding light on the journey of a contemporary American composer.

The first stage of Charles's life, which can be extrapolated from the letters he would religiously send to his family in the Bronx, describes his life as a student in Paris. Incidentally, these letters were found many years after in a shoe box in a dresser drawer in his mother's apartment shortly before she died. Readers vicariously live through the grueling classical music studies Charles endured under the tutelage of Mlle Boulanger and the financial hardship his parents experienced in supporting him, which he always deeply appreciated. Moreover, they capture the promise of adventure as Charles's life as a musician begins to unfold. It is in reality something evolving big from almost nothing.

The second phase of Charles's life began in 1961 when, after much agonizing, he decided to take a break from his studies and return to New York where he accepted an offer from a Latin Band leader to work with him for the summer in the Catskills Mountains. Suddenly, once again his direction was unclear, although he knew that he wanted to be a musician. In addition, as he states, his life was filled with “all the uncertainty that accompanies the transition from student to professional, and from single to married with children, while searching for my place in the seemingly elusive world that I had chosen to be part of.” It was during this segment of his life that Charles came into his own, although it was not exactly something that transpired overnight, as he had to pay his dues. It was also a defining period of his life when he made the transition to the world of pop music to try to earn a living, and as we discover, was not an easy one for him. He was not very familiar with the popular music of the day and as he mentions: “I dragged myself kicking and screaming into the world of rock and roll and pop music.”

Charles's third phase began in Hollywood in 1968 and we do hope it will continue for many years to come.

Some of the most notable music written by Charles and described in his memoirs emanate from more than one hundred motion pictures and television scores including the legendary song and Grammy Award winner Killing Me Softly that Roberta Flack made famous. It is little wonder, as you learn from the memoir, that artists love to work with him such as Barry Manilow, Fred Astaire, Lena Horne, Goldie Hawn, Lori Lieberman, Peggy Masrsh, Olivia Newton-John, and many more. This is not to say that Charles did not have his share of disappointing experiences including one that he recounts concerning Dizzy Gillespie as well as some others. However, I guess this is all part of show business.

This year the Smithsonian Institute requested Charles's only copy of the Happy Days record used in the opening scene of the hit TV Series to be inducted into the archive as part of the newly created permanent Entertainment History Exhibit.  Charles has also been the Emmy Winner for best score, and best theme song, Love American Style. He has also been nominated for several Oscars and Golden Globes. In 2004 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

To craft an effective memoir, authors must bear in mind that memoirs are not so much a life story but rather a story of a life experience. And this is why Charles Fox's Killing Me Softly: My Life In Music had captured my interest from the very first page with its candid and honest depiction of a life that was and is still filled with a great deal of colorful episodes. Let us hope there will be more to come.

Click Here To Read Norm's Interview With Charles Fox

Click Here To Purchase Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music