Anna Marie Wooldrige, PKA Abbey Lincoln
I met my Abbey Lincoln through my parents. Well, not literally. My father introduced me to her heady mix of soaring and sobering vocal style by playing “Bird Alone” for me many years ago. I’ve loved her voice ever since.
My mother introduced me to Abbey as an actress in the seminal film, Nothing But A Man, in which she starred as Josie. If you don’t know this film, Netflix it and IMDB it. It is a classic story of race and relationships. Abbey Lincoln delivers a tour-de-force performance.
But then, those are the only kind she’s ever delivered. My favorite album of the many she recorded is A Turtle’s Dream, one of her later releases. She is so adept at turning phrases, bending notes and curling emotion, she holds her listeners in a rapture. My favorite cut from it is the first, “Throw It Away”.
Its lyrics are a reminder that I, that each of us, already have all that we need–and can be comforted in living fearlessly.
Throw it away, throw it away
Give of your love, live your life
Each and every day
And keep your hand wide open
Let sun shine through
‘Cause you can never lose a thing
If it belongs to you
No disrespect to the legendary musician, but please believe she was much more than the former wife of master drummer Max Roach. So often we in entertainment are described as the spouses of other entertainers, with no thought to the woman’s individual achievements which may pre- or post-date the said relationship. Abbey Lincoln is a master in her own right, a Sister Swan who made travelling difficult roads look easy.
I have an additional tribute planned for this space, but until that comes together, I didn’t want another day to go by without thanking the divine Ms. Lincoln for her role in my life–as a self-made Black woman artist who always and only sang or spoke in her own clear voice.
Jazz master, vocal stylist, songwriter, actor and activist Abbey Lincoln transitioned to the ancestral plane at the age of 80 this past Saturday, August 14th.
Rest in perfection, Abbey.
For a detailed obit piece, click on this from the New York Times.