Roberta Flack’s ALS making it ‘impossible to sing,’ manager says

Grammy-winning singer and pianist Roberta Flack is no longer able to perform and struggles to speak following an ALS diagnosis, her manager confirmed Monday.

“It will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon,” Flack’s manager, Suzanne Koga, said in a statement to The Associated Press, noting that the degenerative disease “has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak.”

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Koga also stated that Flack “plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits,” through her eponymous foundation and other endeavors.

ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Flack, now 85, catapulted to fame more than 50 years ago, when actor and director Clint Eastwood featured her “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” as the soundtrack for a love scene in 1971′s “Play Misty for Me.”

Flack won two Grammys in 1974 for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance for “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” her fourth album. She was most recently honored by the Recording Academy in 2020 with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Variety reported.

According to the entertainment news outelt, the announcement of Flack’s diagnosis comes just before the premiere of “Roberta,” a feature-length documentary from filmmaker Antonino D’Ambrosio slated to debut Thursday at the DOCNYC film festival. In addition to competing at the festival, “Roberta” will also air in January as part of PBS’ 2023 “American Masters” series.

Flack previously suffered a stroke in 2016 and later fell ill while appearing at a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America at the Apollo Theater in New York in 2018, Variety reported.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.