You'll Be Missed, Ms. Lincoln
August 14, 2010 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Not just a singer, but a songwriter. Not just an actress, but an activist. Abbey Lincoln helped to push the expectations that the jazz loving public had of jazz vocalists beyond the stereotype of sexy chanteuse delivering someone else's lyrics. From sexy and sultry (as in this clip from "The Girl Can't Help It") to quirky and passionate to elegant and expressive, Ms. Lincoln was a true original in every sense of the word.

Born in the 1930's in Chicago and raised in Michigan, she began her career singing in dinner clubs, trying to please her manager by covering romantic ballads and wearing traditionally slinky outfits. Then she met the jazz drummer Max Roach and began to learn how to be herself. When I discovered the world of the artist? It saved my life. Because I could strive to be individual and as best as I could be. I didn't HAVE to have money, I didn't HAVE to have anything except my life. And I went for that! And I'm glad I did.

She rejected what society said she was supposed to look like and started wearing her hair in a natural style in the late 1950's (That was a crime...a black woman wasn't supposed to show that she had the hair that she had. So I just glorified my existence and said, This is me, this is my beautiful self.) She sang songs that pleased her...important, meaningful songs, evocative songs that she had written, and covers from her idol, Billie Holliday. She once explained that she rejected performing songs which demeaned her. I know that a song is a prayer — it's something that I speak over and over, and it's with music. And it's amplified, and it goes into peoples' ears. And it'll manifest in my life, one way or another. So ... I am particular about the messages that come from me.

She was genuine, she was unconventional, she was fearless. She was Abbey Lincoln.

When everything is finished in a world, the people go to look for what the artists leave. It's the only thing that we have really in this world -- is an ability to express ourselves and say, "I was here." -- Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln passed away at her home in New York today, August 14, 2010 at the age of 80. Thank you, Abbey, for having been here.
posted by jeanmari (21 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
RIP, dear Ms. Lincoln. 80 years is a pretty good life.

When she comes in on We Insist!, I am always blown away.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:27 PM on August 14, 2010

posted by tommasz at 8:30 PM on August 14, 2010

posted by Joe Beese at 9:10 PM on August 14, 2010

I found Abbey Lincoln through Maya Angelou's books, and will always be grateful to them for that (as well as innumerable other things). Rest in peace.
posted by verbyournouns at 9:13 PM on August 14, 2010

posted by Madamina at 9:22 PM on August 14, 2010

posted by Bromius at 9:58 PM on August 14, 2010

She was as tender as a rose.
posted by hermitosis at 10:19 PM on August 14, 2010

posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:22 PM on August 14, 2010



When I was a kid in high school trying to learn to play bass, her work with her bassists was an inspiration. That woman's music broke my head.

And somehow I missed her politics. I love her even more now.

posted by stet at 10:47 PM on August 14, 2010

This is an excellent obit post, jeanmari. Thank you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:24 PM on August 14, 2010

Aw man, this makes me sad.

I first heard her song, "When I'm Called Home" about two days after my grandmother died. I had to pull over because I couldn't stop crying. The lyrics fit my grandmother so well - she started a food bank out of the trunk of her car, and never stopped working for other people.

If I can live a life where that song can be played for me at the end, it will be a life well lived.

posted by lysdexic at 11:36 PM on August 14, 2010

posted by iviken at 12:26 AM on August 15, 2010

posted by timshel at 4:14 AM on August 15, 2010

you have no idea how fucked up i am over this.
this is like that time that god dropped dead.

garvey's ghost. garvey's ghost.

world without end. abbey lincoln.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:25 AM on August 15, 2010

Too sad.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 AM on August 15, 2010

posted by Hobgoblin at 6:23 AM on August 15, 2010

posted by Wolof at 6:54 AM on August 15, 2010

I've just noticed the usual posts on Dime. Thanks for this. I love her compositions. They're both cool and lyrical.
posted by nicolin at 7:55 AM on August 15, 2010

Her version of 'Afro-Blue' was, apparently, the first vocal one.

'Triptych,' the vocal/drums duet off We Insist!, is my favorite song on that album.

posted by box at 8:07 AM on August 15, 2010

This makes my husband, a true jazz afficionado, very very sad. So for him, who knew her better than I did:

posted by bearwife at 10:29 AM on August 15, 2010

posted by Smart Dalek at 6:50 PM on August 15, 2010

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