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Roberta Flack is known as one of the best story telling artists ever. Growing up with a musical background in North Carolina and with her father and mother both being church organists, Flack took an interest in piano. At the age of nine, Flack was taking classical piano lessons and mastered the art. She received a full music scholarship at the age of 15 to Howard University in Washington D.C. She changed her major while in school from piano to voice after discovering artists such as Sam Cooke and Maliah Jackson in church. After graduating from Howard University, Flack was forced to put her dreams of graduate school on hold after her father suddenly passed.
Roberta took a job as a music teacher in Washington D.C. and worked nights and weekends as a lounge singer on the side. A jazz musician named Les McCann discovered Flack singing in one of the night clubs and immediately set up a meeting with Atlantic Records producer Joel Dorn. After few months, and close to 60 songs later, Flack’s debut album First Take was released on June 20th, 1969. The album sales were a bit disappointing to Atlantic Records until famed actor/director Clint Eastwood tapped on the song “The First Time I Saw Your Face” from the album to be on the soundtrack of his directorial debut movie “Play Misty for Me”. Following the movie, the song became the biggest hit of 1972 and won a Grammy award for record of the year in addition to helping the album climb to #1 and sell 1.9 million copies in the U.S.
Roberta gained more fame by the remake of Lori Lieberman’s “Killing Me Softly” in 1973, which is still being covered by artists such as Lauryn Hill.
Flack’s career was on the fast track with massive R&B songs such as “The Closer I Get to You” and Grammy award-winning song “Where is the Love” with fellow R&B artist Donny Hathaway. The duo ended abruptly in 1979 when Hathaway committed suicide. Roberta quickly replaced Hathaway with Peabo Bryson and toured in 1980.
Roberta Flack was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999. In more recent years Flack has been seen on the 52nd Grammy award show and was working on an album that covered all Beatles songs which was released in 2012 titled Let It Be Roberta. The album was her first recording in eight years.
Today, Roberta Flack is still touring and singing all of her greatest hits. She recently held a concert in Boston at the City Hall Plaza this August. It is rumored that Roberta will be working on another Beatles cover album, but only time will tell if that’s true.
Listen to the Secret Spot, Boston’s home for R&B, soul, and slow jams everyday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. to hear music from the artist we highlight on our “Where Are They Now” feature.