Have You Heard? – (29) “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

With apologies to any all-out rockers reading this blog, who might have strayed this way having read my Top Ten on Air Guitar, this is all about a wonderful love song. No riffs, just beauty…

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was written by the Scottish folk singer, Ewan MacColl, in 1958.  It’s the same age as me! (I snuck into that year on 25 Dec, famous for something else…). It’s a beautiful love song, with some simple, heart rending lyrics. I think it was written by MacColl for his new love at the time, Peggy Seeger.  It’s a love at first sight song:

The first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes…

I knew the song, probably heard it lots on BBC Radio 2 back in my childhood days.  Subliminally logged in my brain. Loads of people covered it. But it was just recently that it came back to the forefront of my consciousness. The reason? A lovely, raw rendition of the song by Emily Barker in a video for the brilliant Songs From The Shed Series.

It’s not technically perfect, but it’s all the better for that. It’s real.

Emily and her band, the Red Clay Halo, have also recorded the song and it’s available on a free download. First up here’s the song.

And here’s a link to her website where you can download it. I got it from the Soundcloud route, but it’s also on Bandcamp.

Emily’s rendition of the song is heavily influenced by the classic take by the great soul songstress, Roberta Flack.

But there are a lot of other wonderful versions.  I went a bit mad on iTunes and eventually made myself a playlist of 20 versions! Mostly middle of the road stuff, but here are three more. That will do!

George Michael covered the song on his album, “Songs From The Last Century”.  I remembered I actually owned this just before I downloaded it again! George Michael is a wonderful singer – such a shame he’s faded away. Hopefully he’ll sort things out and come back.

Can’t resist a reggae version: Marcia Griffiths. A great reggae tradition, covering the soulful love songs with that beat.

And in some ways the best take (apart from Emily, of course) from someone who I wouldn’t usually pay much attention to: Leona Lewis. Sung with gusto – I could imagine Alicia Keys, or Beyonce,  doing it this way. But Leona makes the song her own here. I love this version.

Oh, and maybe I should include the original. Sung, I think, by Peggy Seeger, even though it’s about her. Very different to later versions. Folkier, less developed sonically.  But with the essence…


About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
This entry was posted in Music - Have You Heard? and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Have You Heard? – (29) “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

  1. Rick says:

    I heard Roberta Flack sing it with the Nashville Symphony. Now, that was a performance.

  2. Have you heard/seen the new Peggy Seeger version of The First Time Ever? It was done with London dance producer Broadcaster and it’s an amazingly different take on the song: http://youtu.be/M_rLjYll85Q

  3. Thank you for sharing that video with Emily Barker’s raw rendition of this song. It is very beautiful!

  4. Pingback: Donny Hathaway + Roberta Flack « messymandella

  5. Pingback: Rudimental cover The Fugees ‘Ready Or Not’ for Like A Version | messymandella

  6. charlie says:

    looking for a version that roberta sings this song and there’s a big horn solo man it sent chills any help

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s