Roberta Flack Diagnosed With ALS: Here’s What You Should Know

85-year-old legendary singer and songwriter Roberta Flack is in the hospital after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. According to Flack’s rep, Elaine Schock, it is currently impossible for the multiple Grammy-award-winning artist to sing, and not easy to speak. 

This announcement was made ahead of the premiere of Roberta, a feature-length documentary about the icon’s life, which debuts November 17 at the DOCNYC Film Festival. Flack also has plans to publish The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music, a children’s book co-written with Tonya Bolden, in January 2023.

“It will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon,” the press release stated. “Miss Flack plans to stay active in her musical and creative pursuits. Her fortitude and joyful embrace of music that lifted her from modest circumstances to the international spotlight remain vibrant and inspired.”

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement or the muscles we choose to move. Chewing, walking, and talking are common examples of voluntary muscle movements. Over time, the disease can cause muscle paralysis and an inability to function independently. ALS is a rare condition that affects an estimated 31,000 individuals in the United States as of 2017. 

Common and early signs and symptoms of ALS include muscle cramps, slurred and nasal speech, muscle twitches in areas like your arms, legs, tongue, or shoulder, and challenges swallowing or chewing. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, early signs of ALS could manifest as difficulty buttoning your shirt, unlocking a door, or writing. You may also find your balance is off, and you’re falling or tripping more frequently. 

Flack’s diagnosis is one of several health issues she’s faced over the past few years. In 2016, she suffered a stroke; in January of this year, the singer had COVID-19. The North Carolina native released her first hit single, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” at 35, and the song has done its rounds at weddings for decades.

We hope the legend recovers soon and can enjoy her upcoming projects. 

Learn more about ALS here.

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