Friday, August 20, 2010

Abbey Lincoln

One death after another, that's all you get folks. Even if the recent passings of Harvey Pekar and Tony Judt hadn't been more than enough, and they were, I still would have been hit hard by the death of Abbey Lincoln on August 14. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge in Chicago in 1930, the 10th of 12 children, and grew up in rural Michigan. Her first recordings, made in her early 20's, depicted her as a glamorous ingénue, but by the time she hit her stride in the mid-50's she was demanding respect by singing, howling, whispering and crying with saxophonist Sonny Rollins and drummer Max Roach, who she later married.

There are plenty of remembrances on the web, but really the best way to get a measure of this singular singer is by listening to We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, an absolutely searing record released in 1960 that will reduce you to tears with its indictment of slavery and demand for civil rights. Lincoln was beautiful and powerful, a great singer and a force of nature, there will never be another like her.

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