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Abbey Lincoln - Profile of her Life

Updated on December 8, 2013

Early Years

She is a singer, song writer, actress, civil rights activist and of course world renowned jazz vocalist. Abbey Lincoln born Anna Marie Wooldridge is recognized as one of jazz's most uncompromising vocalist. In fact, few singers have her emotional depth. With a voice that evokes the happiness, joy and pain of life, she will always have a special place in the world of jazz music.

Born in Chicago, Illinois on August 6, 1930. She was the tenth of 12 children. At an early age the family moved to rural Michigan where Abby would grow up. From an early age, she developed a love for music; soon she would perform at school and with her church choir. As Abbey matured, her singing did too. She studied the singing styles of Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. As a result, she learned to sing with great emotional passion. In the early 50's, in search of a singing career, Lincoln headed west. She spent two years in Hawaii, where she met Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. Lincoln then moved to Los Angeles, California where she was be-friended by the lyricist Bob Russell. Russell became her manager and at his suggestion, she adopted the stage name Abbey Lincoln, which is a combination of Abraham Lincoln and Westminster Abbey.

Chicago and New York

After a few years in the western United States, Abbey moved to Chicago. As a result of her growing popularity, she was offered a role in the film "The Girl Can't Help it." During this performance she wore a dress similar to the one Marilyn Monroe wore. Abbey wasn't comfortable with this lifestyle; soon after, she fired her manager and looked for other projects. Abbey recorded her first album in 1956 named "Abbey Lincoln Affair:A Story of a Girl in Love." In 1957 she moved to New York City and worked at the Village Vanguard. It was during her time here she saw Max Roach again. The two first met when Abbey lived in California. Though him she would meet New York's Jazz elite, and she would develop as a artist and a civil rights activist.

Following their second meeting, and from the late 50's into the 1960's, Roach and Lincoln collaborated frequently. During this same period of time, the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Consequently, they along with other jazz musicians such as John Coltrane and Charles Mingus were in the middle of it. In 1960 the pair recorded Roach's hit album "We Insist: Freedom Now Suite." As a result of her involvement with this album, Lincoln's reputation was radicalized.

1960's,70's and 80's

In 1962, Abbey married Max Roach. After they were married, for a while, she was more active as an actress than a singer. She starred with Ivan Dixon in “Nothing but a Man,” in 1964. In 1968 she stared opposite Sidney Poitier in the romantic comedy “For Love of Ivy.” During the 60's and 70's, Lincoln acted in various television roles. In 1970 Lincoln divorced Roach. During this time she withdrew from the spotlight and moved back to California. Despite the financial hardships she went though, she made the best of it. Abbey visited Africa in 1975 at the invitation of a close friend. During the 70's and 80's, Lincoln recorded on small independent record labels. However it wasn't until 1989 her career got a big boost. A French producer Jean-Philippe Allard invited Lincoln to record for Verve Records.

1990's and 2000's

In 1990 Abbey had a brief role in the movie Mo' Better Blues. In the film she played the role of Bleek Gilliams' mother. That same year, "The World is Falling Down" was released. It moved Lincoln back to stardom. On this album was featured artist such as saxophonist Jackie McLean and pianist Hank Jones. Since that album, she has had a string of hits that continue to bring her commercial success. In 2003 she received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award.

Abbey Lincoln passed away on August 14, 2010. Although she is gone, she is not forgotten. She will live on though her music and the various musical artist she influenced.

Additional Information

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    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      6 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Nell Rose - She was one of the underrated greats. Thanks for your comments :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, I seem to hear about such wonderful talent after they have passed away, she was amazing!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @dwaynehood _ I am glad you like it :)

    • dwaynehood profile image

      dwaynehood 

      7 years ago from 9535 Stoney Ridge Lane, JENKINTOWN, PA-19046,USA

      Cool hub..

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Shirley Pisa - She is a great singer; thanks for your comments on this article :)

    • profile image

      Shirley Pisa 

      7 years ago

      Very thorough. Nice of you to share with us traits of Ms. Lincoln that made her such a great performer :)

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @tonymac04 - Thanks for your comments on this article :)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      I have long loved the "We Insist: Freedom Now Suite" album and really like Lincoln as a singer. I was not aware that she had died so recently.

      Thanks for a super Hub.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @noelaspill - She is in my opinion a underrated singer. It is understandable. Thanks for your comments :)

    • profile image

      noelaspill 

      7 years ago

      I am glad you posted this. I am ashamed to say I had never heard of her but she has a great voice.

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @TheListLady - Thanks for your comments and I am Glad you like this article.

    • TheListLady profile image

      TheListLady 

      7 years ago from New York City

      I love love love Abbey Lincoln - wow! What an all around star and talent - and she was the star in my all time favorite movie, "Nothin' But a Man" with Ivan Dixon. Wonderful.

      Thanks so much for this amazing tribute to an amazing woman. Rated up!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @katiem2 - I am glad you enjoyed the article and its nice to hear from you again :)

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 

      7 years ago from I'm outta here

      WOW what a face Abbey Lincoln tells a story with the deepth of her glance and eyes. What an amazing performer and thank you for teaching me more to appreciate about Abbey Lincoln,Great videos

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Support Med - I know what you mean; she will be missed. Thank you for your feedback on this article.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Such a strong voice!! It seemed a voice that said, 'I have decided to let you (Abbey Lincoln) sing me.' I remember 'For The Love of Ivy,' and now will probably take a re-look at it and 'Mo' Better Blues.' The best always seem to leave this world too soon (no matter what the age). An excellent profile of her life and enjoyed the videos. Voted/rated.

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Sandyspider - Yes she is an interesting lady to learn about. Thank you for your comments :)

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Nice to learn about Abbey Lincoln. Good hub.

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @PWalker281 - I know what you mean, I enjoyed "For the love of Ivy too." Thank you for commenting, it is so nice to hear from you again :)

    • profile image

      PWalker281 

      7 years ago

      Great hub, Coolmon!! I had heard that Abbey had passed away. I remember her movies more than her singing, particularly "For the Love of Ivy." Hadn't realized it was her in "Mo' Better Blues," one of my Spike Lee all-time favorite movies (the music in that movie is incredible!). I hear a bit of Billie Holiday in her vocal style.

      I'm learning so much from your hubs. Will rate this one up. Keep 'em coming!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @nextstopjupiter - Thanks for taking time to read my article :)

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @tracykarl99 - I am glad you like it and it is nice to hear from you again :)

    • nextstopjupiter profile image

      nextstopjupiter 

      7 years ago from here, there and everywhere

      Thank you for this hub, a great tribute to an extraordinary artist!

    • tracykarl99 profile image

      Tracy 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Another keeper from the Coolmon musical archives! A fascinating hub about a strong, talented woman. Had never heard of Abbey before; thanks for the history:)

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Micky Dee - Are you referring to the video labeled "First Song?" Let me know. As usual, I am happy to hear from you. I agree she is smooth.

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @davake - Thank you for your comments.

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @dahoglund - Thanks for your comments and it is nice to hear from you again :)

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Petroley - Thank you for your feedback, I am glad you enjoyed reading this article.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      7 years ago

      "What was the first song that was sung?" Great music. Wonderful bands. She's really nice. She really was the artist! She is smooth! I'm glad she stopped "Down Here Below".

    • davake profile image

      davake 

      7 years ago

      Very nice article a bit of a history lesson

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      A nice introduction for me. I have heard the name but had not been familiar with her work.

    • Petroley profile image

      Petroley 

      7 years ago from Zenica, Bosnia

      Interesting hub, well done! vote up keep it up!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Pamela99 - I enjoy the old school blues-jazz singers too. Thanks for your feedback :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a very interesting article. I love all those old blues singers.

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR

      Coolmon2009 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @justom - I know what you mean. It seems she is a bit underrated. To me she is a great singer. Thanks for your feedback on this article :)

    • profile image

      justom 

      7 years ago

      This is a great read. I don't know why but I don't remember her. Peace!! Tom

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