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Here's Everything You Need To Know About Singer Roberta Flack

Here's Everything You Need To Know About Singer Roberta Flack

She turns 86 years young today!

Roberta Flack is a pioneering soul icon whose work paved the way for women musicians and transformed popular music. Flack had a series of hits during the ‘70s and worked with a number of popular artists, including Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross, and Peabo Bryson. Flack’s music is timeless, and her contributions to R&B is worthy of preservation. In honor of the legend’s birthday, here’s everything you need to know about singer Roberta Flack: 

She was a child prodigy.

According to PBS, Flack began learning classical piano when she was just 9 years old. At the age of 15, she was awarded a full music scholarship to Howard University. Flack worked as a music teacher during the day and at a local Washington, D.C. nightclub at night called Mr. Henry’s. The nightclub is where she was discovered by jazz musician Les McCann who arranged an audition for Flack with Atlantic Records.

Flack is the only solo artist to win Record of the Year at the Grammy’s back-to-back.

She made history as the only solo artist to win the Grammy’s Record of the Year award for two consecutive years. She won the 1973 Grammy for “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and the 1974 Grammy for “Killing Me Softly.” She has earned 14 Grammy nominations over the course of her career and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Grammys, The New York Times reports. 

She is a humanitarian and mentor.

The beloved singer is the founder of the Roberta Flack School of Music at the Hyde Leadership Charter School in Bronx, New York. The music program offers educational initiatives to underserved students for free, reports. Flack is also the founder of The Roberta Flack Foundation, which supports a number of aspiring creatives and causes like Shelectricity, a tech community that empowers young girls and women, and filmmaker Carol Swainson’s International Peace and Art Center, which uses the arts to explore social justice issues.

Flack was diagnosed with ALS last year.

In 2018, Flack retired from touring, continuing to make special appearances and releasing her most recent project, Running, at the age of 80 years old. Last year, Flack’s team announced that she had been diagnosed with ALS, which has prevented her from singing. Still, she has maintained a positive outlook and continues to use her platform to bring awareness and push the art she fell in love with so long ago. 

“Ms. Flack plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits…Her fortitude and joyful embrace of music that lifted her from modest circumstances to the international spotlight remain vibrant and inspired,” Flack’s publicist said via statement.

Her legacy is still an inspiration for musicians everywhere.

In 2022, a feature-length documentary entitled Roberta premiered at the DOC NYC film festival, exploring the life and legacy of Flack. A PBS documentary special also aired earlier this year entitled American Masters: Roberta Flack. The film took a look at Flack’s artistry, struggles with racism and sexism, her work with the Civil Rights Movement and her contributions to popular culture. This year will be the 50th anniversary of Flack’s Killing Me Softly album and Rhino Records is planning to commemorate the moment with a re-release of the record. 

Happy Birthday Ms. Flack! Because of you, we can!

Here’s everything you need to know about singer Roberta Flack/Flack in 1974 at Grammy Awards/Photo Courtesy of Harold Filan/Associated Press