On August 14, 2010 the jazz world suffered another great loss with the death of one of its greatest vocal stylists: Abbey Lincoln.  The acclaimed singer, actress, composer, and activist was born Anna Marie Wooldridge in Chicago in 1930 but grew up on a farm in Michigan with her eleven siblings.  The family had a piano and Ms. Lincoln was drawn to music at an early age. Inspired by the recordings of Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan, she began to sing in church and school, and by her late teens was already working professionally.  She moved to California, spent a year in Hawaii, and upon her return to Los Angeles sang in local clubs and recorded her debut album, Affair, for Liberty Records in 1956, changing her name to Abbey Lincoln.  Around this time, the singer, who had proven a talented actress in high school, began to receive offers for film and stage appearances.  In 1957 she sang in the film The Girl Can’t Help It and toured in the stage show Jamaica.  Lincoln also achieved some popular success as an actress early in her career through her appearances in such films as Nothing But A Man and For Love of Ivy, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.  Her television credits as an actress included episodes of such diverse programs as Mission Impossible, The Name of the Game, and All in the Family.  In 1990, she had a brief role in Spike Lee’s Mo Better Blues.

With her marriage to drummer Max Roach, with whom she had collaborated on the landmark 1960 recording We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, Lincoln became a committed civil rights and women's rights activist, while continuing to evolve as an artist. She began to feature her own songs, delivering the powerful and poetic lyrics in her very personal and moving style. In the 1990s, Lincoln’s made a series of recordings for Verve, which brought the singer even wider critical and popular acclaim.  Her singing style became even more singularly expressive and direct as she distilled it to its essential elements.   In later years, Lincoln also turned to art, producing many evocative works in a number of mediums.  In 2003, she was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor.

Institute Of Jazz Studies - Rutgers University - Newark, New Jersey
Abbey Lincoln Jazz Profiles from NPR
  IJS has received the personal archives of Abbey Lincoln