Abbey Lincoln

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About Abbey Lincoln

Jazz singer/songwriter Abbey Lincoln’s work bridged eras and sensibilities, connecting the bop of her influences (Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins) with the civil rights consciousness of the ’50s and ’60s before forging new paths for jazz in the ’80s and beyond. Born Anna Wooldridge in Chicago in 1930, Lincoln got her initial musical exposure from church. She released her first album in 1957, displaying a sound heavily informed by Holiday’s vocal elasticity but bearing a contemporary touch. She began recording her own compositions early on, unusual for a jazz singer at the time. For most of the ’60s, Lincoln was married to the legendary jazz drummer/bandleader Max Roach; she sang on his milestone 1960 album We Insist, which brought racial issues and avant-garde jazz together. Lincoln didn’t release any records between 1962 and 1972, but African American themes would become an important component of her work starting with 1973’s People in Me. She maintained a film and TV acting sideline in the ’60s and ’70s, including race-relevant projects like 1964’s Nothing But a Man. Through the ’80s and ’90s, Lincoln refined her songwriting style to create an idiosyncratic slant on post-bop that made for a long string of highly regarded albums. A 2003 NEA Jazz Master honoree, Lincoln didn’t lack for recognition. She passed in 2010 at age 80, having pushed both jazz and African American issues further forward.

Chicago, IL, United States
August 6, 1930
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