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Roberta Flack Biography

10 February 1937, Asheville, North Carolina, USA. Born into a musical family, Flack graduated from Howard University with a BA in music. She was discovered singing and playing jazz in a Washington nightclub by pianist Les McCann, who recommended her talents to Atlantic Records. Two classy albums, First Take andChapter Two, garnered considerable acclaim for their skilful, often introspective, content before Flack achieved huge success with a poignant version of folk-singer Ewan MacColl’s ballad, ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Recorded in 1969, it was a major international hit three years later, following its inclusion in the movie Play Misty For Me. Further hits came with ‘Where Is The Love’ (1972), a duet with Donny Hathaway, and ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’ (1973), where Flack’s penchant for sweeter, more MOR-styled compositions gained an ascendancy. Her cool, almost unemotional style benefited from a measured use of slow material, although she seemed less comfortable on up-tempo songs. Flack’s self-assurance wavered during the mid-70s, but further duets with Hathaway, ‘The Closer I Get To You’ (1978) and ‘Back Together Again’ (1980), suggested a rebirth. She was shattered when her partner committed suicide in 1979, but in the 80s Flack enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Peabo Bryson that reached a commercial, if sentimental, peak with ‘Tonight I Celebrate My Love’ in 1983. Set The Night To Music was produced by the highly respected Arif Mardin, but the bland duet with Maxi Priest on the title track was representative of this soulless collection of songs. Still, Roberta Flack remains a crafted, if precisionist, performer.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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