-----Did you know?
Roberta's first album did not sell well, until Clint Eastwood chose the song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," for the sound track of his directorial debut Play Misty for Me. It became the biggest hit of the year for 1972 - spending six consecutive weeks at #1 and earning Flack a million-selling gold disc. Eastwood, who paid $2,000 for the use of the song in the film, has remained a friend of Flack's ever since.
Flack is best known for her Hot 100 #1 singles "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," "Killing Me Softly with His Song," and "Feel Like Makin' Love," as well as "Where Is the Love" and "The Closer I Get to You," two of her many duets with Donny Hathaway.
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" won the 1973 Grammy Record of the Year, and "Killing Me Softly with His Song" won the same award at the Grammy Awards of 1974. She and U2 are the only artists to win the award in back-to-back years. Her style is a mixture of jazz, soul, R&B, and folk music.
-----Flack was born in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and raised in Arlington, Virginia. She first discovered the work of African American musical artists when she heard Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke sing in a predominantly African-American Baptist church.
During her early teens, Flack so excelled at classical piano that Howard University awarded her a full music scholarship. She entered Howard University at the age of 15, making her one of the youngest students ever to enroll. She eventually changed her major from piano to voice, and became an assistant conductor of the university choir.
She graduated from Howard University at 19 and began graduate studies in music, but the sudden death of her father forced her to take a job teaching music and English for $2800 a year in Farmville, North Carolina.
Flack then taught school for some years in Washington, DC. She also gave piano lessons out of her home. During this period, her music career began to take shape on evenings and weekends in Washington, D.C. area night spots.
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At the Tivoli Club, she accompanied opera singers at the piano. During intermissions, she would sing blues, folk, and pop standards in a back room, accompanying herself on the piano. Around this time, her voice teacher, Frederick "Wilkie" Wilkerson, told her that he saw a brighter future for her in pop music. She modified her repertoire and her reputation quickly spread.
When Flack performed at a benefit concert for the Inner City Ghetto Children's Library Fund, renowned piano player Les McCann happened to be in the audience. He arranged an audition for her with Atlantic Records, during which she played 42 songs in 3 hours for producer. In early 1969, she recorded her debut album, First Take. Flack's version of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" hit number seventy-six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.
First Take also went to #1 and eventually sold 1.9 million copies in the United States. It was awarded the Grammy Award for Record Of The Year in 1973. In 1983, she recorded the end music to the Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact at Clint Eastwood's request.
Flack soon began recording regularly with Donny Hathaway, scoring hits such as the Grammy-winning "Where Is the Love" in 1972 and "The Closer I Get to You" in 1978 - both million-selling gold singles. Flack also scored her second #1 hit, "Killing Me Softly with His Song" written for Lori Lieberman in 1973. It was awarded both Record Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female at the 1974 Grammy Awards. Its parent album was Flack's biggest-selling disc, eventually earning Double Platinum certification.
Flack and Hathaway recorded several duets together, including two LPs, until Hathaway's 1979 suicide.
Roberta continues to perform. She is also a member of the Artist Empowerment Coalition, which advocates the right of artists to control their creative properties.