Roberta Flack's First Take 50th Anniversary Set now available digitally


The “Sheer Brilliance” of Roberta Flack’s

1969 Debut LP First Take

As a Special 50th Anniversary Set

Now Available at Digital Music Services

Rhino Records Release New Song from Her Vaults,
A Unique Take on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,”
Picks Up Radio Play and Adds
(New York, NY) Praised for her “otherworldly” talent and the “sheer brilliance” of her first album in a recent Pitchforkreview, 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.”
Lauded by NPR for “demand[ing] a new way of thinking about the word ‘genius,'” Flack enjoyed high honors last year that were capped by a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and a two-song salute on a PBS Great Performances GRAMMY Music Legends special. She was the belle of the ball in a rare public appearance at the GRAMMY ceremony, where such top contemporary stars as Khalid, Lizzo, Ana DuVernay and Ariana Grande as well as now-recently-deceased jazz legend Chick Corea all flocked to her to pay their respects.
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.
And as Roberta celebrates her 84th birthday, her never-heard-before-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. A number of stations nationwide have added it to rotation or played it in anticipation of a playlist add, including signals in such major markets as Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Nashville, Salt Lake City and Tucson. Flack and “What’s Going On” were recently featured on Questlove’s Okayplayer site.
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. 
As Pitchfork notes, the opening track of First Take, “”Compared to What,” in fact “anticipates Marvin Gaye’s socially conscious landmark” song, “What’s Going On.” A review of Flack’s version in The House That Soul Builtnotes how she “chooses not to borrow from Gaye’s melodious and richly layered arrangement” but instead recorded a “take [that] is percussive and sharp – with bongo drums and electric guitar setting the pulse, over which she delivers a vocal performance more as a spoken-word set to music – though Gaye’s incisive lyrics about police brutality and social injustice are no less penetrating.”
Here we are in 2021,” Flack observes, “50 years after Marvin and I recorded this song. The question, sadly, is still relevant. Obie and Marvins 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.”
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 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. Uncutmagazine hails it as “a debut of remarkable vision and maturity” and American Songwriterpraises it as an “iridescent album.”
Over the course of her career Flack released 18 Billboard-charting songs and won four GRAMMY awards plus earned 13 nominations, and is the only act to win Record of the Year two years in a row (1973 and ’74). Born and raised in rural Black Mountain, North Carolina, she started playing piano and singing as a young girl, mentored by her family, teachers, church members, choir directors and others. At the age of 15, Flack earned a full music scholarship to Howard University – one of the youngest students ever to enter the legendary African-American college (HBCU). Following graduation, she taught music in Washington, DC-area schools while moonlighting as a nightclub performer, becoming a sensation and packing the house at Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill, where she was heard by McCann, which led to her signing with record label, Atlantic Records.
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:
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First Take: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition 
CD/Vinyl available
And now available digitally