Roberta Flack Diagnosed With ALS, Making It ‘Impossible to Sing’

Roberta Flack at The Recording Academy and Clive Davis Present The 2010 Pre-Grammy Gala - Salute To Icons, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA 01-30-10 — Photo by s_bukley/Deposit Photos

Legendary singer Roberta Flack is battling ALS, making it “impossible to sing and not easy to speak,” a spokesperson for the singer said Monday.

The rep did not disclose when Flack was diagnosed, but noted that it will take more than the disease to slow the singer down.

“Miss Flack plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits,” the rep said in a statement to Urban Hollywood 411. “Her fortitude and joyful embrace of music that lifted her from modest circumstances to the international spotlight remain vibrant and inspired.”

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ALS is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The illness, known medically as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord causing loss of muscle control, according to the Mayo Clinic. There is no cure for the fatal condition.

Flack, 85, is best known for her No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, including “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” and “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”

Lately, the singer has been preparing for the release of a documentary on her life and career titled Roberta, which premieres this week.

Roberta Documentary (Credit: DOC NYC)
Roberta Documentary (Credit: DOC NYC)

The feature-length doc from director Antonino D’Ambrosio celebrates the artist’s distinctive voice, songs, and spirit. It debuts in competition at the DOC NYC festival on Nov. 17, in Manhattan. The film will make its television premiere as part of the PBS “American Masters” franchise on Jan. 24, 2023.

Next year will also mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Flack’s Killing Me Softly LP, and in January The Green Piano, a children’s picture book she co-authored will arrive in stores.

The North Carolina native graduated from Howard University with a Bachelors in Music Education.

Over the years, Robert Flack has received 14 Grammy nominations and won four of the awards.

She was the first artist to win the Grammy for Record of the Year for two consecutive years — picking up statuettes for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in 1973 and for “Killing Me Softly” in 1974. In 2020, she received the Grammys Lifetime Achievement Award.

She retired from touring in 2018, but continues to make special appearances, according to her website.

Flack is also involved in philanthropic efforts and founded The Roberta Flack Foundation to support animal welfare and music education in 2010.