Legendary Singer Roberta Flack, 85 No Longer Able To Sing and Barely Speaking, After Being Diagnosed With ALS
We have to appreciate our legends while we can because some of them are losing their abilities. Roberta Flack is an iconic vocalist and songwriter responsible for hits like “Killing Me Softly” and “Tonight I Celebrate My Love.” While she has been touring the world for years and wowing audiences, it appears her golden voice has left her following a recent diagnosis of ALS. Let’s take a look at her journey and other celebrities struggling with the same disease.
ALS is a “progressive neurodegenerative disease” and stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig who played for 17 years with the New York Yankees. He began displaying symptoms during the 1938 season, complaining of being tired and feeling weak. These symptoms eventually progressed, and he was ultimately diagnosed with the illness that now bears his name.
So what happens to people with ALS? According to official definitions, “In this disease, nerve cells break down, which reduces functionality in the muscles they supply. The cause is unknown. The main symptom is muscle weakness. Medication and therapy can slow ALS and reduce discomfort, but there’s no cure.” The disease is considered rare but has affected many famous people, including Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking, Actor David Niven, Boxing champion Ezzard Charles, Former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace, and NFL football player Tim Shaw.
Roberta Flack is now added to that list. Today, TMZ reported that she has been suffering for an undisclosed amount of time, and today her reps confirmed that her ALS had impaired her ability to talk, let alone sing. Flack was scheduled to do some promotion in the new year for her upcoming children’s book and a PBS documentary about her titled “Roberta.” The feature-length doc was helmed by filmmaker Antonino D’Ambrosio and is set to premiere this Thursday at the DOCNYC film festival. Sources confirmed, “It will play in competition at the festival before airing on television in January as part of PBS’ “American Masters” series in 2023.” 2023 also marks the 50th anniversary of her hit single “Killing Me Softly” release.
Flack fell ill back in 2018 during a performance at the Apollo Theater. It is unclear if she was already fighting ALS at the time, but the symptoms described seem to be in line with those of the disease. The singer reportedly felt ill and dizzy and was rumored to have collapsed. She had had a stroke in 2016, so the incident was concerning for her team. She was performing a charity concert for the Jazz Foundation of America.
The announcement is shocking for fans, but Roberta’s team assured them that the icon would find new ways to stay active. “It will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon,” her manager Suzanne Koga said in a press release. Roberta Flack also “plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits through her eponymous foundation and other endeavors.”