Roberta Flack Reveals ALS Diagnosis, Now ‘Impossible To Sing’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Legendary R&B singer, Roberta Flack, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, her representation revealed on Monday, Nov. 14.

Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, her diagnosis has made it “impossible to sing and not easy to speak,” a press release explained, “but it will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon.”

The statement continued, “Miss 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.”

For the 85-year-old artist, 2023 marks a big year. Flack’s classic 1973 album, Killing Me Softly, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. She will also publish The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music, a children’s book about her childhood events that set her on her musical path. The picture book, co-written with Tonya Bolden, will be released sometime in January.

Also in January, a documentary, called Roberta, will air as a part of the PBS “American Masters” series. Exploring Flack’s lyrics, and the influences that guided her style and, in turn, inspired others, the film will include interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Yoko Ono, and Angela Davis. It is set to premiere at New York City’s DOCNYC film festival this week on Nov. 17.

Flack sat down with American Songwriter earlier this year to discuss her work on the Bustin’ Loose soundtrack, which was reissued in early 2022. “The entire album didn’t get any attention for so many years now,” she explained in the interview. “Generations of children never heard these songs that I wrote with them in mind. Now they can hear what I hoped might inspire them.”

(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

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