Roberta Flack Has ALS, Finds It Impossible to Sing

From a Wall Street Journal story by Ginger Adams Otis headlined “Singer Roberta Flack Has ALS, Finds It Impossible to Sing”:

Grammy award-winning artist Roberta Flack has ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig‘s disease, and can no longer sing.

Ms. Flack, 85, had hoped to attend Thursday’s premiere of “Roberta,” a feature-length documentary about her that’s being screened at DOC NYC, an annual documentary film festival in New York.

She is currently hospitalized in New York and unable to attend, although many of her friends and family will be there.

The progressive disease “has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak” but will not “silence this icon,” manager Suzanne Koga said announcing Ms. Flack’s amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis. She was diagnosed in August.

“Roberta,” directed by Antonino D’Ambrosio, will also air Jan. 24 on PBS as part of its “American Masters” series.

ALS, named after the Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig who was afflicted with the disease, affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.

Ms. Flack won back-to-back Grammy awards for record of the year in 1973 and 1974, for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” respectively. The record of the year Grammy goes to the artist, producers and engineers involved in recording a specific song, according to the Recording Academy.

The performer plans to “stay active in her musical and creative pursuits,” the statement said, and work with her charitable organization, The Roberta Flack Foundation, which supports animal welfare and music education.

Ms. Flack will also publish a children’s book that she co-authored, titled, “The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music.” It’s set for release in January 2023, the same year her record label will reissue her fourth album, “Killing Me Softly,” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the song’s release.

A classically-trained pianist who was born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia, Ms. Flack received a music scholarship at age 15 to attend Howard University. She was discovered singing at a Washington, D.C., nightclub by jazz musician Les McCann and soon signed with Atlantic Records.

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