Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jazz Singer Abbey Lincoln who appeared in 'Nothing But a Man' and 'For Love of Ivy', Passes Away at 80

Abbey Lincoln in The Girl Can't Help It

Abbey Lincoln, a legendary signature jazz singer, tersely poetic songwriter, and accomplished actress, died Saturday in Manhattan at age 80. She lived in the Upper West Side of New York. She had been declining in health for the past year. Her death was confirmed by friend and filmmaker Carol Friedman, who has been working on a documentary on Lincoln's life. Born Anna Marie Wooldridge in Chicago as the tenth of 12 children, Ms. Lincoln grew up on a farm in the small township of Calvin Center, Michigan. She has earned a place among the “greats” of jazz.

Her career encompassed outspoken civil rights advocacy in the 1960s and fearless introspection in more recent years. Lincoln made records and acted in films in the 1950s and '60s, then saw her career surge again in the 1990s when she found new voice as a songwriter. From her romantic lead in Michael Roemer's Nothing But A Man (1964) to the knowing cameo Spike Lee had her play in Mo' Better Blues the lady was fierce. She starred opposite Sidney Poitier in For Love of Ivy (1968).


Her biggest impact and best art was in the musical realm, from her vibrantly angry declamations on We Insist!, a 1960 collaboration led by her soon-to-be-husband Max Roach (they married in 1962, divorced in 1970), to the astonishing solo work of many years later. Abbey and Roach began collaborating quiet frequently during the end of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s. During this time, the Civil Rights movement was on the rise, and they, along with Charles Mingus, Oscar Brown, Jr., John Coltrane, and other jazz musicians, were right in the thick of it.

Her career renaissance was in the form of this amazing run of recordings (beginning with 1990's The World Is Falling Down), for which she assembled the most sensitive and wide-ranging groups of players and sang a mix of American songbook standards, jazz classics, and nakedly honest originals. Really an artist of genius. Listen to Lincoln's jazz profile on NPR.

When everything is finished in a world, the people go to look for what the artists leave. It's the only thing that we have really in this world -- is an ability to express ourselves and say, "I was here."

-- Abbey Lincoln

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