Roberta Flack’s music career is taking an unfortunate shift. According to Best Life, her manager shared on Monday that the 85-year-old can no longer sing after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) this summer.
According to CNN, the condition has made it “impossible” for Flack to sing and difficult to speak. ALS deteriorates nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that are vital for muscle function, leading to progressive paralysis and death. Voice difficulties are often associated with ALS — the condition can mimic spasmodic dysphonia or vocal fold paresis, the Voice Foundation reports.
However, she’s not letting that stop her from expressing herself.
“But it will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon,” her publicist, Elaine Schock, told The New York Times.
Flack has had an illustrious career, snagging 14 Grammy nominations and several wins over the years. She won a Grammy Award for record of the year and best pop vocal performance in both 1973 and 1974. Her beloved and critically acclaimed tunes include “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” According to Best Life, she put out 20 albums and was honored with a lifetime achievement award from The Recording Academy’s National Trustees.
“Ms. Flack plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits,” the Trustees said at the time. “Her fortitude and joyful embrace of music that lifted her from modest circumstances to the international spotlight remain vibrant and inspired.”
Flack has struggled with her health for the last few years. Back in 2018, while appearing at the Apollo Theater, she collapsed and had a stroke.
Next year is a big one for Flack. A documentary about the singer, titled Roberta is set to premiere on Thursday at the DOC NYC film festival. The movie will air on PBS television in January. Rhino Records is also planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of her 1973 Killing Me Softly album by releasing a commemorative reissue of the record. Additionally, the 85-year-old is releasing a children’s book in January, Best Life reports.