This R&B Legend Has ALS and Can No Longer Sing, Manager Announces
But her representative also stressed that Roberta Flack's career is far from over.
After a career that spanned decades, saw her win four Grammys, and release songs that are still popular today, Roberta Flack's days of singing have come to an unfortunate end. On Monday, Nov. 14, Flack's manager shared with the press that the 85-year-old can no longer sing after being diagnosed with ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
That said, her manager clarified that her illness doesn't mean that Flack will be completely retiring or giving up her passion for music. Read on to learn more about the star and her condition.
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Flack's career took off in the early 1970s.
Flack's 1972 single, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," spent six weeks at No. 1, was named the top song of 1972 on the Billboard Hot 100, and won the Grammy for Record of the Year. That same year, Flack was also awarded the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus for "Where Is the Love" with frequent collaborator Donny Hathaway.
Another of the singer's most famous hits, "Killing Me Softly with His Song," earned two Grammys, for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance (Female). With Flack's two Record of the Year wins, she became the first person to take the same trophy home in consecutive years.
In 2020, Flack received the Grammys' Lifetime Achievement award.
Her manager says it's now "impossible" for her to sing.
In a statement about Flack's health, her manager, Suzanne Koga, said that the singer's ALS diagnosis "has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak," as reported by CBS News.
"It will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon," Koga added, however.
According to the Mayo Clinic, ALS "is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control." The institution also notes, "Most people with ALS develop trouble speaking. This usually starts as occasional, mild slurring of words, but becomes more severe."
She doesn't plan to completely retired, however.
Koga indicated that Flack "plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits." This will include the work of the Roberta Flack Foundation and other endeavors. According to her website, Flack "established her Roberta Flack Foundation to support aspiring creatives and causes she cares about."
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She released her final song four years ago.
In 2018, Flack released the song "Running," which was featured in the documentary 3100: Run and Become about the longest footrace in the world, the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race.
Flack, who had suffered a stroke in 2016, told Billboard of the song, "The music remains my lifeline. And the lyrics for 'Running' speak to where I am now, working to keep going through music."
A documentary about her life is coming out soon.
A documentary about Flack, titled Roberta, is premiering on Nov. 17 at the DOC NYC film festival, as reported by Variety. The film from director Antonino D'Ambrosio will also air as part of the PBS series American Masters next year.