Vocalist Abbey Lincoln, Dies At 80, Asked What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
August 15, 2010
Abbey Lincoln, who died yesterday, at 80, knew as much as anyone how to reinvent herself with purpose and passion.
After she met drummer Max Roach, The first here, “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”, teaches what a difference a preposition makes.
After she met drummer Max Roach, she changed herself from a cutely sexy chanteuse in a Marilyn Monroe dress to a singular voice of civil rights advocacy. In the 1960s, she became a movie actress opposite Sidney Poitier. Approaching age 60, she emerged anew for a long final chapter as a movingly expressive singer and influentially introspective songwriter.
She could pry the heart loose with a phrase.
The best tribute is to listen to her: The first here, “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”, teaches what a difference a preposition makes.
Nate Chinen writes in The New York Times:
Long recognized as one of jazz’s most arresting and uncompromising singers, Ms. Lincoln gained similar stature as a songwriter only over the last two decades. Her songs, rich in metaphor and philosophical reflection, provide the substance of “Abbey Sings Abbey,” an album released on Verve in 2007. As a body of work, the songs formed the basis of a three-concert retrospective presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2002.
Her singing style was unique, a combined result of bold projection and expressive restraint. Because of her ability to inhabit the emotional dimensions of a song, she was often likened to Billie Holiday, her chief influence. But Ms. Lincoln had a deeper register and a darker tone, and her way with phrasing was more declarative.
“Her utter individuality and intensely passionate delivery can leave an audience breathless with the tension of real drama,” Peter Watrous wrote in The New York Times in 1989. “A slight, curling phrase is laden with significance, and the tone of her voice can signify hidden welts of emotion.”