Roberta Flack is unable to sing following her recent ALS diagnosis.
A spokesperson for Flack – known for her ballads ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ and ‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’ – confirmed the singer’s condition in a press statement yesterday (November 14).
The representative said Flack’s battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, has made it “impossible to sing and not easy to speak”. The press statement did not disclose how long the 85-year-old has been suffering from the disease.
Despite the impact of ALS on Flack’s voice, the statement insisted that she will remain “active in her musical and creative pursuits”, which include her eponymous foundation committed to animal welfare and music education.
The statement continued: “[Flack’s] fortitude and joyful embrace of music that lifted her from modest circumstances to the international spotlight remain vibrant and inspired… It will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon.”
Among Flack’s future pursuits is a forthcoming children’s book titled The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music, co-written by the singer with author Tonya Bolden.
Early next year, Flack’s life and artistry will be chronicled in Roberta, a documentary based on the singer’s decades-spanning career directed by Antonino D’Ambrosio. Both the book and documentary will be released in January 2023, the same year as the 50th anniversary of Flack’s most popular album, ‘Killing Me Softly’.
Released in 1973, Flack’s fourth studio LP spawned the Billboard Chart-topping single ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’, and later won the 1974 Grammy Award for Record of the Year. It is due to be reissued next year in celebration of the five decades since its release.
Flack suffered a stroke in 2016, and spoke of the importance of singing in an interview amid her return to the stage two years later. “I could sing any number of songs that I’ve recorded through the years, easily,” Flack told Associated Press in 2018. “I could sing them, but I’m going to pick those songs that move me.”