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'Killing Me Softly' hitmaker Roberta Flack has ALS, making it 'impossible' for her to sing

By NICK GARCIA Published Nov 15, 2022 1:22 pm

American award-winning singer Roberta Flack has been diagnosed with ALS, her publicist announced on Nov. 14.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Elaine Schock in a press release said Flack has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, making it "impossible to sing and not easy to speak."

The statement didn't say when Flack, 85, was diagnosed with the disease.

On its website, the ALS Association describes the condition, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, as a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There is no cure for ALS yet.

"When the motor neurons die, the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movement,"  the website explains. "When voluntary muscle action is progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe."

One of the most high-profile ALS patients was theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Despite being diagnosed with the disease in 1963 at 21 years old, Hawking lived for over five decades—far longer than doctors' expectations. He died in 2018 at the age of 76.

The news about Flack's health comes days before the feature-length documentary about her life, Roberta, premieres on Nov. 17 at DOCNYC, the largest documentary film festival in the United States. Roberta is available online from Nov. 18 to 27, and premieres on American broadcaster PBS on Jan. 24, 2023.

Schock said Flack plans to "stay active" in her musical and creative pursuits, including her co-written children's book The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music, which chronicles her music career. It's slated for a January 2023 release.

The year 2023 is a big year for Flack.

It marks the 50th anniversary of her most famous album, Killing Me Softly. The title song was also famously covered by Fugees in 1996, with Lauryn Hill on vocals. Rhino Records will mark the occasion with a commemorative reissue of the record.

Flack's music career began in the '70s. She's known for her No. 1 hits The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Killing Me Softly With His Song, as well as her duets The Closer I Get to You and Where is the Love with Donny Hathaway.

She won four Grammys, the highest recognition in the music industry, and received 14 nominations throughout her career.

Flack suffered a stroke in 2016. She also had a bout of COVID-19 last January.

"It will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon," Shock said, adding the singer will also continue to pursue charitable and educational initiatives via the Roberta Flack Foundation.

"Roberta knows firsthand that music has the power to uplift, inspire and transform."