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The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Ewan MacColl wrote The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in 1957 for his then lover—and later wife—Peggy Seeger. It is said that he wrote and taught it to her over the telephone when she needed a song for a play she was cast for.
Peggy Seeger sang and recorded this song lots of time but I know of no recording of Ewan MacColl’s. The version on the MacColl anthology Black and White was sung by Peggy Seeger. The song was also covered by lots of singers, most famous amongst them Roberta Flack who had a #1 hit with it in the United States in 1972.
Bert Jansch sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in 1966 on his Transatlantic album Jack Orion.
June Tabor sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in 1999 on her Topic album A Quiet Eye.
Mick Groves sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face on his 2004 album of songs of Ewan MacColl, Fellow Journeyman.
Damien Barber and Mike Wilson sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in 2011 on their CD The Old Songs. They noted:
From the pen of Ewan MacColl and the singing of Peggy Seeger. If one analogy of a folk song is that of a beautifully smoothed pebble on a beach, picked up and rolled by the sea to perfection over time, then this gem has been rolled over every beach on the planet!
Sarah McQuaid sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in 2014 on her CD Walking Into White. She noted:
Ewan MacColl wrote this for Peggy Seeger, and it’s been recorded by so many illustrious names that I feel a bit presumptuous for having had a go at it myself, but I couldn’t resist. I think it’s one of the most perfect love songs ever written.
June Tabor sings The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes,
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the empty skies, my love,
To the dark and the empty skies.
The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth turn in my hand,
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love,
That was there at my command.
The first time ever I lay with you
And felt your heart beat close to mine,
I thought our joy would fill the earth
And would last till the end of time, my love,
And would last till the end of time.