Aug 15, 2010 3:43 PM by Chris Welty

Jazz Singer Abbey Lincoln Dies at Age 80 in NY

NEW YORK (AP) - Abbey Lincoln, a jazz singer and songwriter
known for her phrasing, emotion and uncompromising style, died
Saturday in New York at age 80.
She had been declining in health for the past year. Her death
was confirmed by friend and filmmaker Carol Friedman, who has been
working on a documentary on Lincoln's life.
Lincoln made records and acted in films in the 1950s and '60s,
then saw her career surge again in the 1990s when she found new
voice as a songwriter.
Over her long career, Lincoln acted with Sidney Poitier and
collaborated in music with the drummer Max Roach, whom she married
in 1962 and later divorced.
In later years, she had chart-topping albums with "You Gotta
Pay the Band," which she recorded with Stan Getz, and "Devil's
Got Your Tongue," in which she rebuked some rappers, comics and
filmmakers for profiting from the denigration of black culture.
As a young woman, Lincoln made a splash not only because of her
voice, but her beauty. Early album covers featured her in slinky
dresses, and she appeared in a Jayne Mansfield movie wearing the
dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."
But after falling under Roach's influence, Lincoln turned her
back on that image, casting herself instead as a civil rights
advocate, dressing in African-inspired clothing and hairstyles, and
making music with a political tone.
Her 1960 collaboration with Roach and Oscar Brown Jr., "We
Insist! (Freedom Now Suite)," was a testament against racism.
Explaining her image makeover in 1993, Lincoln told The
Associated Press, "This dress was more important than I was.
People in the audience were looking at my exposed breasts and the
shape of my body, and it didn't have nothing to do with the music.
"... It wasn't a dream of mine to be a star, so Max came along
at the right time to help save me from myself. Otherwise, I would
have become an alcoholic and unhappy."
Born Anna Marie Wooldridge in 1930, Lincoln was the daughter of
a handyman and grew up with 11 brothers and sisters in rural Calvin
Center, Mich. She discovered music early, teaching herself piano
and singing in music and school.
Lincoln worked as a maid as a teenager, but continued to sing,
and eventually worked her way on to the nightclub circuit in
Honolulu and then played supper clubs in Los Angeles in the early
1950s, performing under the name Gaby Wooldridge, and then Gabby
Lee. Her manager and songwriter eventually came up with the stage
name Abbey Lincoln.
Her work with Roach began in 1957 with the album "That's Him."
In the 1960s, she had several film roles, starring in the
independent film "Nothing But a Man," a story about a black
railroad worker in the South in love with a preacher's daughter,
and then opposite Poitier in "For Love of Ivy" in 1968.
Lincoln's career fell quiet in the 1970s and '80s, after her
marriage to Roach ended, but she re-emerged in the 1990s and found
new fame and acclaim.
She released nine more albums, the last, "Abbey Sings Abbey,"
in 2007. Lincoln also acted again for the first time in decades,
with a brief role in the Spike Lee film "Mo' Better Blues."
"I've done what I please, told people to go bug off and
exercised my independence," Lincoln told the AP in 1993.
Friedman said the world had lost "an amazing genius."
"There are gorgeous women, there are spirited women, there are
genius women - Abbey Lincoln was all of that," she said. "You
don't find an artist that embodies this kind of level of physical
beauty and cerebral magnificence in one package."


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