Grammy Award-winning R&B legend Roberta Flack has been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and can no longer sing.
According to CNN, Roberta’s representatives made the somber announcement about her condition on Nov. 14.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is reportedly a progressive disease that “has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak,” her publicists said in a statement. It breaks down brain and spinal cord nerve cells that enable muscles to work, leading to eventual paralysis and death. However, the publicists insisted that it’ll “take a lot more” than the disease to “silence” the R&B singer.
“But it will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon,” they said in their statement.
The news of Roberta’s diagnosis has arrived following the announcement of her new documentary Roberta, which debuted at the DOC NYC film festival on Nov. 17. The documentary, which is about her life and legendary career, will air on PBS in January as a part of its “American Masters” series.
The 85-year-old released a string of No. 1 hits in the ’70s and produced 20 studio albums throughout her over-50-year career. She was also the first artist to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year for two years in a row: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in 1973 and “Killing Me Softly with His Song” in 1974.
“Killing Me Softly” was even covered by Grammy Award-winning ’90s hip-hop trio The Fugees in 1996.
In 2020, Roberta won four Grammys and was honored with a lifetime achievement award. She suffered a stroke a few years ago and, about two years later, opened up about returning to her craft. Despite her health issues, she planned to return to the stage. At the time, she was asked about performing her older songs, to which she responded, “There’s no such thing as an old hit,” and said she preferred the term “classic.” She also said the “pandemic has kept most of us off the stage for two years…I don’t know what the next two years will hold, but I hope to see my fans in person sometime soon.”
In addition to her musical achievements, she’s also set to release a children’s book titled The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music, co-written with Tonya Bolden. The book is scheduled to be released in January 2023.
“I have long dreamed of telling my story to children about that first green piano that my father got for me from the junkyard in the hope that they would be inspired to reach for their dreams,” she said about the book.