Roberta Flack Celebrates
Grammy Wins With Billie Eilish,
The Only Two Artists To Now Have
Back-to-Back Record of the Year Awards
Flack Joins 2021 Record Store Day Line-Up
With Never-Heard-Before Version of “What’s Going On”
A New Release from Her Recording Vaults
Legendary Singer, Pianist, and Humanitarian’s
1969 Debut LP First Take
As a Special 50th Anniversary Set
Now Available at Digital Music Services
(NEW YORK) The monumental genre-busting musical artist Roberta Flack continues to wow listeners as she enters the second half-century of her historic career. Last year saw the release of First Take in a 50th Anniversary edition loaded with notable previously-unheard recordings. Another never-before-released gem from her archives was a digital issue last month to celebrate Flack’s 84th birthday: her distinctive take on Marvin Gaye’s cultural landmark song, “What’s Going On.”
“Here we are in 2021,” Flack observes, “50 years after Marvin and I recorded this song. The question, sadly, is still relevant. Obie and Marvin‘s song lyrics are clear, the emotion in them is unmistakable. I hope that my cover of their song will be heard with familiarity and also some level of urgency.”
The 1971 recording of the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On,” returns the formidable hit-maker to current active radio through its release on Rhino Records. Flack and “What’s Going On” were recently featured on Questlove’s Okayplayer site.
Roberta’s never-heard-before version of “What’s Going On” will also be included in this summer’s Record Store Day as part of a two-set compilation that footwear and apparel brand Vans is releasing. On June 12, Songs for You, Vols 1 & 2 featuring Flack’s newly-released song along with contributions from 6lack, Black Thought, Cautious Clay, Common, Duckwrth, Lupe Fiasco, Nubya Garcia, Freddie Gibbs, H.E.R., Amber Mark, Curtis Mayfield, Keb’ Mo’, Otis Redding, Run The Jewels, Pop Smoke, Esperanza Spalding, Tank and The Bangas, and Summer Walker, will be released in support of black-owned record shops.
“Black-owned record stores have historically served as places where our community has gathered to learn, listen, and celebrate,” Flack stated in the RSD official announcement. “They have been places of political activism, where we find our voices through the music we hear. Marvin’s song that I include in this project is sadly as relevant today as it was when it was released 50 years ago.”
The song emerged from an instrumental jam that evolved into her song “Go Up Moses.” which appeared on Flack’s album Quiet Fire. It is available for download in high-def Dolby Atmos as well as standard stereo.
Flack enjoyed high honors last year that were capped by a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. The award emphasizes her ground-breaking career which includes winning GRAMMY’s Record of the Year twice consecutively in 1973 and ’74. She was the only artist to accomplish the feat until this year when Billie Eilish had back-to-back wins in the category.
Flack was also saluted with two songs on a PBS Great Performances GRAMMY Music Legends special.
Cynthia Erivo performed Flack’s First Take number and 1972 #1 hit and GRAMMY Song of the Year “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” on the PBS show. Erivo sang a duet with Leslie Odom, Jr. on “Where Is The Love,” Flack’s song recorded with Donny Hathaway that reached #5 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Easy Listening chart that same year and won the GRAMMY for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.
Last year also saw Flack’s treasured 1922 Steinway – her first professional-quality piano – donated to the Musical Instrument Museum to be showcased in its Artist Gallery alongside a silk outfit she wore onstage made by Jackie Rogers. A January 2021 article on NPR.com by noted music journalist Ann Powers named Roberta among “41 Women Who Should Be In The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.”
The First Take reissue with demo recordings and early live tracks as well as liner notes by soul music aficionado David Nathan and pianist/vocalist Les McCann (who discovered Flack in 1968) earned many high-profile rave reviews.
Over the course of her career Flack released 18 Billboard-charting songs and won four GRAMMY awards, including her back-to-back Records of the Year Awards, plus earned 13 nominations.
She achieved iconic stature as an artist who drew from such Black music styles as R&B, jazz, gospel, blues and soul and blended them with her classical training and background as well as rock, popular classics, folk and Latin songs and influences. NPR noted how Flack was “a major figure in 1970s popular culture” while the Rev. Jesse Jackson praised her as “socially relevant and politically unafraid.”
Flack continues to influence new generations of musical talents with scholarship and mentoring initiatives through her Roberta Flack Foundation. Her impact on music and popular culture will continue with a planned documentary film about Flack’s life and music, her biography, and a children’s book, “The Green Piano,” based on her first piano.
She remains committed to not just exemplary artistry but also social and political activism. As Roberta recently told AARP magazine, “I will continue to use my music to touch hearts, tell my truth, and encourage people always to do whatever they can, however they can, to make the world better.”
For more information: www.robertaflack.com
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