Roberta Flack, the 85-year-old singer known for songs such as “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” has ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has made it impossible to sing and restricted her speaking ability, according to her manager.
“It will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon,” her manager Suzanne Koga said in a statement to AP News. The Grammy-winning singer and pianist also “plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits,” through her eponymous foundation and other endeavors.
This announcement of her diagnosis comes just before the premiere of “Roberta,” a feature-length documentary from filmmaker Antonino D’Ambrosio which is set to debut on Thursday at the DOCNYC film festival. It will play in competition at the festival before airing on television in January as part of PBS’ “American Masters” series in 2023.
Next year will also mark a milestone for Flack, whose fourth album, “Killing Me Softly,” will celebrate its 50th anniversary along with a reissue. Atlantic Records, Flack’s longtime label from 1968 to 1996, is also celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023.
The singer’s tenured career in soul, R&B and jazz music has given her multiple accolades, including two Grammy wins in 1974 for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance for “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” She was honored by the Recording Academy in 2020 with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Flack previously suffered a stroke in 2016 and later fell ill while appearing at a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America at the Apollo Theater in New York in 2018.
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