Roberta Flack, 85, no longer able to sing and struggling to speak
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Grammy-winning musician Roberta Flack is also said to be having trouble speaking following her health woes. The Killing Me Softly hitmaker has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare progressive neurodegenerative disease.
Symptoms of the disease can include difficulty walking, muscle cramps, slurred speech and trouble swallowing.
The singer’s manager, Suzanne Koga, released a statement on Monday, as she addressed the soul singer’s condition.
Flack, 85, has won four Grammy awards and received 14 nominations.
In addition to Killing Me Softly – which was later covered by the Fugees – Flack is known for songs including The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which launched her to stardom after it was used in Clint Eastwood film Play Misty for Me, and Feel Like Makin’ Love.
Her condition – Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – “has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak,” her management said in a statement.
“But it will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon,” they said, adding that she “plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits”.
The news comes seven years after the singer suffered a stroke in 2016, she previously told the Associated Press, she wants her old songs to be remembered as “classics” and not just an “old hit”.
“I could sing any number of songs that I’ve recorded through the years, easily, I could sing them, but I’m going to pick those songs that move me,” Flack said.
“Now that’s hard to do. To be moved, to be moved constantly by your own songs.”
The performer later tried to return to music following her health ordeal but was rushed to hospital in 2018 after a performance.
While Flack stopped singing in public, she remained passionate and previously shared she sings in private all the time.
“The pandemic has kept most of us off the stage for two years,” Flack told the publication People amid her struggle to regain strength after the stroke.
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“I don’t know what the next two years will hold, but I hope to see my fans in person sometime soon.”
After a brief attempt to perform live, the star retired from live shows in 2018.
It comes after she was performing for the Jazz Foundation of America at New York’s Apollo Theatre when she reported feeling “extremely dizzy”.
According to TMZ, the singer called an ambulance backstage and was soon rushed to a hospital in Harlem.
And in January, she suffered a bout of COVID-19.
There is no known cure for ALS, which is caused by the death of the nerves that carry messages from the brain to people’s muscles. It affects their ability to move, talk and even breathe.
The timing of Flack’s film and book release next year coincides with the 50th anniversary of her fourth album Killing Me Softly With His Song, which was released in 1973.
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