In 2012, after years of using her musical talent to entertain fans of all ages and genres, Roberta Flack was diagnosed with ALS. An incurable motor neuron disease that paralyzes the vocal chords and the ability to move, it’s taken a toll on Ms. Flack’s career in more ways than one.
Who is Roberta Flack?
Roberta Flack is a singer, songwriter, and musician who rose to prominence in the early 1970s with her soulful voice and unique style. Her hits “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” topped the charts and earned her Grammy Awards, solidifying her place as one of the greatest vocalists of our time. In recent years, however, Roberta Flack’s career has taken a backseat to her personal life, as she has battled health issues and faced financial difficulties. Despite all of this, she remains an active force in the music industry, recently releasing a new album and continuing to perform live.
The legendary singer Roberta Flack has had an illustrious career, spanning over five decades. She has released numerous hit songs, won multiple Grammy Awards, and sold millions of records. Here are some of her career highlights:
-In 1972, she released her debut album First Take, which included the hit single “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. The album was a huge success, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over two million copies.
-In 1973, she won her first Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”.
-In 1974, she released her second album Killing Me Softly with Her Song, which included the title track as well as the hits “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Where Is the Love”. The album was another huge success, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over four million copies.
-In 1977, she won her second Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “Feel Like Makin’ Love”.
-In 1980, she released her third album Roberta Flack featuring Donny Hathaway, which included the hit single “Back Together Again”. The album was yet another huge success, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over six million copies.
-In 1981, she won her third Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for
Brief Background of ALS
A native of North Carolina, Flack began her career singing in a church choir. She started playing piano at the age of 15 and within a few years, she was studying music at Howard University on a full scholarship. After graduating from Howard, she became a music teacher in Washington D.C., but she soon gave that up to pursue her musical career full-time.
In the early 1970s, Flack released her debut album First Take, which featured the hit single “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. The song became a massive success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and winning Flack a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. She followed up with a string of successful albums and singles throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including such hits as “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”, and “Tonight I Celebrate My Love”.
Flack’s career took a bit of a downturn in the 1990s, but she made a strong comeback in the 2000s with the release of several well-received albums. In recent years, she has been beset by health problems, including an ongoing battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Despite her illness, Flack continues to perform and record music; her most recent album was released in 2018.
ALS Symptoms and Effect on Voice
Although ALS is a progressive disease, the speed at which it progresses varies from person to person. Symptoms of ALS can include muscle weakness, muscle twitching and cramping, difficulty speaking (dysarthria), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and eventually paralysis of the muscles used for breathing (respiratory muscle weakness).
The effect of ALS on Roberta Flack’s voice has been profound. In recent years, she has struggled with her vocal cords, which have weakened and become increasingly difficult to control. As a result, her voice has become thinner and less powerful, and she has had to rely on artificial means of communication, such as a computerized voice synthesizer.
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Different Ways to Preserve Your Voice Post ALS Diagnosis
There are many ways to preserve your voice post-ALS diagnosis. Roberta Flack is currently using a computerized voice device, which allows her to speak with a natural-sounding voice. Other options include esophageal speech, electrolarynx, or tracheostoma valve. Each option has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to discuss with your doctor what will work best for you.
Esophageal speech may be the best option for those who want to maintain a natural-sounding voice. This method involves placing a speaking valve at the top of the tracheostomy tube. Air is then directed through the esophagus, which vibrates the vocal cords and produces speech. While this method can produce clear speech, it can be difficult to learn and may require regular practice.
An electrolarynx is a handheld device that produces sound by vibrating the air in the mouth and throat. This device can be used for both speaking and singing. While it takes some time to get used to using an electrolarynx, it can produce clear speech and does not require surgery.
A tracheostoma valve is another option for those with ALS. This valve is placed over the stoma (opening in the neck) and allows air to pass through without going through the vocal cords. This can help to preserve the voice by preventing further damage to the vocal cords. However, this method can produce a harsh-sounding voice
It’s clear that Roberta Flack is still an immensely talented singer, even at the age of 82. She may not be as active in the music industry as she once was, but her voice is still as beautiful as ever. We hope to see her continue to perform and make beautiful music for many years to come.