ALS diagnosis takes away Roberta Flack’s ability to sing



R&B singer Roberta Flack has been diagnosed with ALS, her manager announced this week, and the disease has “made it impossible to sing”.

Flack had three hits topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the 1970s. Her first was “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in 1972, then “Killing Me Softly With His Song” the following year, according to Billboard. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” in 1974 capped that streak.

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According to the Recording Academy website, she won four Grammys from her 14 nominations. She won the Record of the Year award two years in a row, in 1973 and 1974. She was the first artist to win the award back-to-back, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

“Killing Me Softly With His Song” stormed back onto the music scene when the Fugees covered the song. Their version won the 1997 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The Recording Academy’s National Trustees awarded Flack the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Flack was a key voice for Quiet Storm, a radio format that started in DC and played smooth R&B aimed at black listeners. According to a Howard alumni website, she entered Howard University on a music scholarship at the age of 15.

News of her ALS diagnosis sparked love from fans online. “I was *just* browsing Roberta Flack’s catalog and I have a few of her albums on vinyl, but I don’t think she’s getting quite the credit she deserves. She’s been a force for a long time,’ a fan tweeted.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes nerve cells to slow down and die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A lack of functioning nerve cells robs people of the ability to trigger specific muscles, including the muscles around the lungs and mouth along with the vocal cords themselves, according to the ALS Association.

Like most noncommunicable diseases, ALS cases are not reported to federal health officials, so the CDC conducts surveys to study its prevalence. The latest study was published in 2017 and found that there were between nearly 18,000 and 31,000 cases of ALS in the United States.

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The announcement from Flack’s manager included details about a documentary called “Roberta,” which premieres Thursday at the DOC NYC film festival at Manhattan’s SVA Theater.

“Flack intends to remain active in her musical and creative pursuits,” her manager wrote. Flack has her own foundation that educates and mentors girls.

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The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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