She’s been getting killed softly with her song and she’s got you singing along. Roberta Flack is one of our greatest singers, but she sadly will likely never sing again after her tragic diagnosis.
Roberta Flack has been diagnosed with ALS – which is a motor neurone disease and has made it harder for her to perform and even difficult for her to speak. This is certainly a tragedy for the singer and for her fans.
Now in her 80s, Roberta Flack is an icon of American music and one of our greatest soul singers. Her life’s journey has been full of struggle but it’s been a wonderful journey that we can all reflect on and find inspiration from.
Join FactsVerse to learn about how Roberta Flack will never sing again after her tragic diagnosis…
ROBERTA FLACK’S EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Roberta Cleopatra Flack was born on February 10, 1937, in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
Her father was a Veterans Administration draftsman and her mother was a church organist. As a result, Roberta Flack grew up around music and took an interest in singing and playing musical instruments from a young age.
She began her singing career at the Lomax African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as part of the choir. At this same time, she was perfecting playing the piano and she knew from the age of 9 that she wanted to pursue a career in music.
Yet, she was initially interested in teaching music. Her piano skills became so great that at the age of 15 she was granted a full scholarship to Howard University to study music. While she initially focused on studying the piano she eventually switched to studying voice and was an assistant to the University’s choir.
It was here where she honed her skills and she even directed a production of Aida, which received much acclaim and even got a standing ovation. It was clear that she had incredible musical talent that would serve her well.
But rather than being a performer, she decided that the best route for her was to teach. Upon graduating from university, she pursued a career as a music teacher. She spent much of her early professional life helping others achieve their musical dreams. She taught piano on her own and also taught music and singing at school.
However, something inside her was telling her that she was destined for greatness. Teaching others how they could achieve their dreams wasn’t good enough. Her colleagues knew this as well and she was encouraged to start singing professionally.
She had a voice teacher named Frederick Wilkerson who suggested that she try to focus on pop songs rather than gospel or classical music which she was more familiar with. Along with her career as a music teacher, she began singing songs at restaurants and nightclubs. It wasn’t long until key players in the music industry took notice and Roberta Flack would become a household name.
What follows is the story of one of America’s most popular and iconic soul singers…
ROBERTA FLACK’S CAREER
In the 1970s, Roberta Flack was living in Washington D.C. where she worked as a music and voice teacher by day and was a singer at restaurants and local clubs at night – most notably at Mr. Henry’s Restaurant, which was located on Capitol Hill.
At Mr. Henry’s she began to get noticed by some top executives in the music industry. They noticed how Roberta’s voice – which we’ve now become accustomed to – was very unique. It was almost falsetto and had a distinct melody. It was upbeat but also hard-hitting.
She was soon approached to start recording her own music. And once her songs were released, she never looked back. She was now going to focus on making her own musical dreams come true rather than helping others make their dreams come true. One wonders how many of her former students were pleasantly surprised to see Ms. Flack become such a huge star.
Two of her most popular songs recorded during the 1970s are still the songs that she’s known for today. These were ‘Killing Me Softly’ and ‘The Closer I Get To You.’ The first song she sang on her own and the second was a duet with Donny Hathaway.
These songs were one of the biggest songs during the Soul music emergence of the 1970s. One must remember that this was the decade where we saw the rise of record labels such as Motown and Stax. This was the decade that gave us Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, The Jackson 5, Brenton Woods, Smokey Robinson as a solo artist, Bill Withers, Ike and Tina Turner, and many more great artists.
Roberta Flack’s songs told the story of women in love and we got to hear a narrative that wasn’t that prevalent in American music before. With these 2 simple songs she became a star and one can expect these songs to be continued to be sung in decades to come.
A mention should be made of her other career achievements during this time. In 1971, Roberta Flack performed in the Soul to Soul concert movie. This concert also featured other great soul singers including Ike and Tina Turner.
Her song “The First Ever I Saw Your Face” was used in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty for Me. The film became such a huge hit and all the songs associated with the film did as well. This film played a huge part in catapulting Roberta Flack’s music to the mainstream.
Her other big hit came in the 1980s – the song “Making Love” which was written by Burt Bacharach. This song, though not as popular as her songs released in the 70s was still a huge hit. She was just as popular in the 80s than she was in the 70s but it was clear that the unique 70s sound she created was what would make her most remembered among fans and colleagues alike.
In the 1980s, she also became known for singing the theme song for the TV show “Valerie” which later was re-named “The Hogan Family.” The theme song was called “Together Through the Years” and is remembered as one of the most popular TV theme songs of all time. In the 1980s, she also voiced the mother’s role in Michael Jackson’s short film “Bad.”
In 1989, she experimented with her style and released a song called “Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)” which was written by Ashford and Simpson. This film topped the dance charts and showed that Roberta Flack had incredible range as an artist. In 1991, she stunned her fans when she performed a duet with the Jamaican singer Maxi Priest called “Set the Night to Music.” This again, became a huge hit and reached the top 10 of various charts.
Later in 1999, she received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and gave a concert in South Africa – of which the final performance was attended by President Nelson Mandela.
Throughout the 2000s and 2010s she recorded many more songs and released more albums. Her most recent song was Running which was a song that played during the closing credits of the documentary film 3100: Run and Become. She was 80 years old when the song was released!
Her energy is unparalleled and she is someone who reinvented herself several times over. While she had a few flops and a few album failures she never gave up and that’s why she’s remembered as an icon of soul music.
Sadly, it seems, all good things must come to an end…
ROBERTA FLACK WILL NEVER SING AGAIN AFTER HER TRAGIC DIAGNOSIS
Recently, Roberta Flack was diagnosed with ALS – a type of motor neurone disease. Sadly, this has made it much harder for her to even speak let alone sing. This illness is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and there is no known cure.
Roberta Flack has had a few health problems in recent years – as she suffered a stroke back in 2016. But her ALS diagnosis has made life much harder and she’s decided its best to focus on treatment and her health.
Sadly, this means that Robert Flack Will never sing again after her tragic diagnosis. Just as this illness ended the career of baseball star Lou Gehrig, it has also ended the careers of many other talented athletes and artists alike, and sadly, Roberta Flack is the latest victim.
But while we feel sad about her illness we must also celebrate her achievements. As one looks back on Roberta Flack’s life – one can’t help but think that this has been a life well-lived. Her career first looked like it would be one that few would remember. Perhaps only a few students would remember how Ms. Flack helped them become better musicians and singers.
But it was on one fateful night at Mr. Henry’s that she was discovered and the rest is history.
She was planning on performing a comeback tour but these plans stalled due to the COVID pandemic. She was hoping to return to live performances after the pandemic but alas, her illness has put an end to that.
While Roberta Flack may have to unfortunately have to fade away in the background due to her illness, the light will never stop shining.
She is one of the greatest soul singers of all time and she will continue to serve as an inspiration for years to come. In modern times, we’ve seen other artists create renditions of her songs – whether it’s The Fugees with their rendition of Killing Me Softly, Luther Vandross and Beyonce with their cover of The Closer I Get To You or even Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker’s rendition of the song in the film Rush Hour 3 – Roberta Flack will never be forgotten and will always be appreciated.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Roberta Flack’s? What do you think about this tragic diagnosis of hers?
We certainly wish her well for the future! Luckily, she’s left us a great body of work for us to enjoy her music.
And now, here’s what we want to know from you:
Do you think that Roberta Flack and other soul singers are still popular today?
Or have tastes change and her type of music is sadly no longer popular?