Abbey Lincoln, RIP

Abbey Lincoln died today in New York. The singer and actress was 80 years old. AfterAbbey Lincoln.jpg meeting Max Roach when he played drums on one of her record sessions in 1957, Ms. Lincoln came under his sway in her approach to music and in uncompromising civil rights activism. She and Roach married in 1962 and divorced eight years later, but his influence steered her toward a later career as a song writer and recording artist with a string of successful albums. For a lengthy review of her life, see Nate Chinen’s obituary in The New York Times.
These two video clips illustrate Abbey Lincoln’s transformation. The first is from the 1956 film The Girl Can’t Help It, which also featured Jane Mansfield. The second is a piece from Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, performed on German television in the early 1960s with his quartet: pianist Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, bassist Eddie Khan and tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan.

Ms. Lincolns’ CD Abbey Sings Abbey summarizes her later work as composer and vocalist.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. Charlton Price says

    Don Maggin’s forthcoming bio of Max Roach will have more about the Max-Abbey relationship and vicissitudes.
    I remember enthusing to a friend online about the
    powerfully beautiful (to me) recording of Cole Porter’s) …” ‘I’m in Love,’ with Abbey Lincoln.” Riposte from my friend: “Oh, yeah, man! Me too!”

  2. mickey says

    This is a huge loss. Abbey Lincoln was the last of the great singers, IMO. Her work became deeper and more meaningful as she got older, and she seemed to value and enjoy it so much.
    I tip my hat to Abbey Lincoln, whose voice was like a burst of colorful lights, focused right on the heart. I’m going to go listen to “Evalina Coffey” now.
    RIP to a real human being.

  3. says

    Wow. Saw her live once in Chicago about thirteen years ago where she did a wonderful version of “Mr. Tambourine Man”. The audience was transfixed through the whole set; I’m glad to have had that experience.

  4. says

    Society certainly feel a great loss with the death of Abbey Lincoln. As a jazz singer, she is very close to the fans. Hopefully, Abbey Lincoln will emerge a new, more phones, so the jazz world does not lose its predecessor.

  5. says

    It was the mid-Eighties and Ms. Lincoln was a beautiful, witty woman in her own mid 50s when I saw her sing in a club and asked her to sign one of her albums. She must have been in a frisky mood, because she signed it “Hey, Ed… it’s Love!” (plus her name). If there was a reference there, I didn’t get it. I was too busy wishin’ and hopin’ and dreamin’ things that would never be…

  6. says

    The German TV clip is extraordinary, and not just for Abbey Lincoln. Both “Driva-Man” and “Tears for Johannesburg” are in 5/4 and exemplify Max Roach’s pioneering work in that meter. And there has never been a drum soloist like Roach.
    Also, Clifford Jordan was a great player, now near-forgotten, alas. One of the first tenor saxophone players to play well above the standard range of the horn–PLAY, not just squeal. His spare, dramatic solo on “Johannesburg” is gripping in a unique way.

  7. says

    Bill (and Doug): thanks for the link about Ed Love. But the story and your note make no reference to evidence connecting Lincoln and Love. Of course she wasn’t giving me some cue. But she might not have penned a capital L, actually (couldn’t quite tell), and what would have connected the two Eds? (Better than one, eh?) I guessed at the cap and figured it for some cosmic reference similar to some of her own spacier lyrics of that era. So please tell me more… if you can do it without destroying my illusions.

  8. Red says

    Does anybody know whatever happened to Eddie Kahn? He’s on some real great records, but I never heard of him after the ’60s.
    I’ve often tried to find out, but always drawn a blank.
    Thanks in advance.
    (The spelling is “h” before “a”—Khan. You can Google him, but none of the references are recent. I, too, have wondered. Maybe some knowledgeable Rifftides reader will let us know—DR)