Tuesday 15 November 2022

Roberta Flack: unable to sing after MND diagnosis

Roberta Flack: Legendary soul singer left unable to sing after MND diagnosis

It was sad to read that Grammy-winning musician Roberta Flack has been left unable to sing after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease. The Killing Me Softly with His Song performer is also having difficulty speaking, her manager said on Monday.

Flack, 85, has won four Grammy awards and received 14 nominations. A documentary about her life is set to premier next week in New York. She also has plans to publish a children's book in January.

In addition to Killing Me Softly - which was later covered by musician Lauryn Hill - Flack is known for songs including The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which launched her to stardom after it was used in Clint Eastwood film Play Misty for Me. Speaking to Rhino in 2021, she said, ‘Clint Eastwood has always been a musical visionary among his many talents.  He told me that he heard my version of "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" while he was driving down a Los Angeles freeway and had to stop his car.  He called me out of the blue and said, "I'd like to use your song in this movie about a disc jockey with a lot of music in it." He said that he would 'use it in the only part of the movie where there's absolute love." I was floored, then agreed.  He said, "Anything else?" I said, "I want to do it over again.  It's too slow." He said, "No, it's not."  That’s the version of the song that you know, and that gives you a snapshot of his ability to see the beauty in simplicity and to use music to convey emotion.

Her condition - motor neurone disease (MND) - "has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak," her management said in a statement.

"But it will take a lot more than MND to silence this icon," they said, adding that she "plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits".

There is no known cure for MND. It is caused by the death of the nerves that carry messages from the brain to people's muscles. It affects their ability to move, talk and even breathe. The timing of Flack's film and book release next year coincide with the 50th anniversary of her fourth album Killing Me Softly With His Song, which was released in 1973.

After the singer suffered a stroke in 2016, she told the Associated Press news agency that wants her songs to be remembered as "classics" and and not just an "old hit".

"I could sing any number of songs that I've recorded through the years, easily, I could sing them, but I'm going to pick those songs that move me," Flack said.

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