Wyclef Jean on Fugees' Rendition of "Killing Me Softly" Earning Original Songwriter $8 Million: 'The Game Is to Own Your Own Copyright'

In a new interview, the rapper discussed the importance of ownership in the music industry.

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Wyclef Jean reflected on the success of one of the Fugees' biggest hits and how it benefited the original songwriter as much as it did them.

The rapper made an appearance on an episode of the 85 South Show published on Friday. During their conversation, Wyclef talked about how the 1996 Fugees hit “Killing Me Softly” generated seven figures for Lori Lieberman, who penned the original version.

According to the New York Times, Lieberman initially recorded “Killing Me Softly with His Song” in 1972 for her debut album at age 19. The song found success when Roberta Flack covered it in 1973. The Fugees released their version on the Grammy-winning debut album The Score.

Wyclef Jean reveals that the original songwriter for the song "Killing Me Softly" made $8 million from Ms. Lauryn Hill's version of the song.

Also, Wyclef Jean details the initial phone conversation he had with DJ Khaled, who wanted to sample his song "Maria Maria" for the… pic.twitter.com/Q23Mhm7qau

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“We ain’t write [‘Killing Me Softly’], but we performed it and it was amazing,” said Clef at the 45:05 mark up top. “And we made somebody 8 million dollars, right? So that mean that whoever was the composer who wrote it was literally sleeping in his bed, and he made 8 million dollars like that.”

Wyclef continued, “Now look at how big that version is, so that person’s copyright has generated them millions and millions of dollars. So this is the game. Royalties, but bigger than royalties: publishing. The game is to own your own copyright and your own compositions. The game is the power of licensing, dig—your publishing is your real estate. You know how once you invest in real estate, it could be 30 years down from now, you’re still going to get money from that property. You can flip it, do whatever you want to do.”

Wyclef didn’t name Lieberman during the interview. Tragically, her contributions to the original song—inspired by a poem she jotted down after watching "American Pie" singer Don McLean perform at the Troubadour in 1971—had been regularly discredited.

According to the Washington Post, Lieberman didn’t get any songwriting credits nor a cut of the original publishing, which went solely to her former managers, Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel. Sadly, Lieberman did not see any of the financial compensation from the song’s renewed life through Roberta Flack’s nor the Fugees’ popular rendition.

“I have been called a liar,” Lieberman told WaPo in 2020. “And it feels terrible. It’s really for my own integrity and for the truth to come out.”

She sang "Killing Me Softly" before Roberta Flack. Now she just wants you to hear her side of the story. https://t.co/U5GYxxvGyC

— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 24, 2020
Twitter: @washingtonpost

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