Roberta Flack, a pianist, and singer best known for her hit Killing Me Softly will continue to work with children and animals through her philanthropic foundation and will release a children’s book the following year.
According to her manager, singer Roberta Flack, 85, has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease, and is no longer able to sing.
The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face and Killing Me Softly With His Song are the two songs that the American actress, who is also a classically trained pianist, is best known for.
She made history when both of her hits won a Grammy Award for record of the year in back-to-back years: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face won in 1973 after Clint Eastwood used it as the soundtrack for a love scene in his 1971 film Play Misty for Me, and Killing Me Softly took home the prize the following year.
Flack’s manager Suzanne Koga said in a statement that the illness “has rendered it impossible to sing and not easy to speak.”
It will “take a lot more than ALS to quiet this icon,” she added.
A progressive neurological condition known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, results in loss of muscle control.
A feature-length documentary about Flack and her career will have its world premiere on Thursday at the DOC NYC documentary film festival in New York, just days after the diagnosis was made public. In January, it will be shown on US television as a part of PBS’s American Masters series.
According to Ms. Koga, Flack “plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits,” including through the nonprofit Roberta Flack Foundation, which supports animal welfare and aids young people, particularly girls, with their musical education.
She also intends to release The Green Piano: How Little I Found Music, a children’s book that she co-wrote with Tonya Bolden.
Flack received a full scholarship to Howard University at the age of 15 thanks to her musical abilities. Flack was born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia. Her parents are both pianists.
In a statement, Flack said: “I have long dreamed of sharing with children my tale of the first green piano my father bought for me from a junkyard in the hopes that they would be motivated to pursue their ambitions.
“I want children to know that with perseverance, support from family and friends, and most of all belief in yourself, dreams can come true.”
A reissue of her fourth album, Killing Me Softly, will be released the following year to mark its 50th anniversary.
Atlantic Records, the company she was signed to for the first three decades of her career, is also commemorating its 75th birthday.
Flack experienced a stroke in 2016, but he was still able to perform.