Jazz Songstress Abbey Lincoln Dies at 80

Monday, August 16, 2010

Abbey Lincoln, who was born Anna Marie Wooldridge, in Chicago, died on Saturday in Manhattan at age 80, after an acting, singing and composing career that spanned some five decades.

When she first came on the scene, many people thought Lincoln was just a pretty face in a famous dress. (She was known for wearing Marilyn Monroe's beaded gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in the 1956 film musical The Girl Can't Help It, in which she had a singing part.) Lincoln went on to have success as a lounge singer—she spent much of her time in the Blue Note in New York—but sought a greater purpose for her emotional contralto voice and became involved in the civil rights movement in the early 1960's. 

Around the same time, Lincoln showed she was unafraid to break barriers. She showed television audiences her afro, instead of conforming with the norm for black women which was to straighten their hair. "I had an image as a glamorous woman, and when I wore my hair natural it made an impression. We freed ourselves up to wear our hair any way we wanted to wear it," she told WNYC's Leonard Lopate in a 1995 interview. Lincoln recorded some of the vocals on We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite album around that time with jazz percussionist (and then husband) Max Roach, to whom she was married for eight years, according to National Public Radio.

In the '70s and '80s, after leaving New York and Roach in 1970 for California, Lincoln made fewer albums, but one of them was Abbey Sings Billie Vol. 1 & 2, a tribute to one of her biggest influences, Billie Holiday. In the 1990s and 2000s, Lincoln was back in New York composing her own work. Her career picked up when she signed with Verve Records, making eleven albums with Verve before her death, including 2007's Abbey Sings Abbey.

Lincoln's voice often sashayed behind the beat of her songs, guiding the listener's ear to the emotion and lyrics she explored in her music.  “Her utter individuality and intensely passionate delivery can leave an audience breathless with the tension of real drama,” New York Times writer Peter Watrous wrote of Lincoln in 1989.

The Times reports that Lincoln is survived by two brothers and a sister—and, of course, by her music. Her musings about that music are especially poignant now that she's gone: "You can see the world through the music that you leave, something about the way things were."

The emotional power of Lincoln's voice as well as her notorious good looks are showcased in the tribute below, which is set to Lincoln's "Throw it Away".



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Comments [7]


The personnel according to Youtube:

Abbey Lincoln- Vocals,
Archie Shepp- Sax (Soprano, Tenor)
Roy Burrowes- Trumpet
Frederick Waits- Drums
Jack Gregg- Bass
Hilton Ruiz- Piano

Aug. 20 2010 01:45 AM

Good call, Barrie, the record was originally released in 1980. Thank you for your feedback.

Aug. 19 2010 02:21 PM

"Throw It Away" was not originally recorded on "Turtle's Dream" in 1995. The original recording was much earlier. The version in your tribute is a 1995 re-release from 1980, if what you told me is correct about it being the 2009 Inner City release. This is what I have found. Is it correct? The one on your tribute includes Archie Schepp and Freddie Waits, right?

Aug. 18 2010 03:44 PM

Thank you for the response. It was a lead, and led me to the further info I sought & found at allaboutjazz, that the album is a re-release from a 1980 vinyl work, and giving the personnel.

"Inner City Records is proud to announce the re-release of Abbey Lincoln's 1980 album Golden Lady.

This album, previously a vinyl-only rarity, features three originals by Abbey Lincoln and three standards. Featuring Archie Shepp on tenor sax, Roy Burroughs on trumpet, Hilton Ruiz on piano, Jack Gregg on bass, and Freddy Waits on drums, this album provides a brilliant showcase for an excellent singer."


Aug. 18 2010 02:46 PM

Hi Barrie. Lincoln's "Throw it Away" was originally featured on her album "A Turtle's Dream", from 1995. The version in the tribute video is from 2009's "Golden Lady" (Inner City).

Aug. 18 2010 10:24 AM
Eliane Lordello from Brazil

What a beatiful tribute in the name of the unforgettable Abbey Lincoln.

Kind regards,
Eliane Lordello

Aug. 17 2010 09:21 PM
barrie from nyc

Please give the date and personnel on this version of "Throw It Away"? Thank you.

Aug. 17 2010 02:55 PM

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