American Masters: Roberta Flack follows the music icon from a piano lounge through her rise to stardom. From “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly,” Flack’s virtuosity was inseparable from her commitment to civil rights. Detailing her story in her own words, the film features exclusive access to Flack’s archives and interviews with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Peabo Bryson, and more.
American Masters: Roberta Flack airs Tuesday, January 24 at 8 pm MT / 9 pm ET on Rocky Mountain PBS.
New film tells Flack’s story in her own words and includes interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Yoko Ono, Angela Davis, Eugene McDaniels, Joel Dorn, Peabo Bryson, and more.
American Masters: Roberta Flack provides an intimate look into Flack’s artistry, life, and triumphs over racism and sexism within and outside of the recording industry. Flack’s story is illuminated through interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson (political activist and minister), Clint Eastwood (actor, director, and producer), Yoko Ono (multimedia artist, singer-songwriter, activist), Angela Davis (political activist), Eugene McDaniels (singer-songwriter), Joel Dorn (producer), Peabo Bryson (singer-songwriter), Valerie Simpson (songwriter, producer, and performer), Les McCann (musician), Sean Lennon (musician), Jason King (music scholar, musician, and author), Ann Powers (music critic, author) and more. In addition to Flack’s timeless music, the film also features an original score from award-winning musician Martin Perna of Antibalas (Fela!: The Musical).
A piano prodigy from an early age, Flack began studying classical piano at age 9 and was awarded a full music scholarship to Howard University at the age of 15. In 1968, moonlighting from her job as a music teacher with a regular gig at a Washington, DC, nightclub, her singular talent caught the eye of jazz great Les McCann, who arranged an audition for Flack with Atlantic Records, which led to the recording of her debut album, First Take. “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” a song from First Take, was personally selected by Clint Eastwood for his directorial debut Play Misty for Me, and it would win Flack a Grammy Award. The following year, she won a Grammy for “Killing Me Softly,” becoming the first artist to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in two consecutive years.
Throughout her extraordinary career, Flack established hit-making mentorships with Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross, and Peabo Bryson. Flack’s indelible career has spanned decades and produced countless hit songs, including “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “The Closer I Get to You.” The film chronicles how, throughout her pioneering career, Flack used her powerful platform to sing about the Black experience in America. She battled opinions of her mixed-race marriage, confronted blatant racism within the recording industry, and created space for Black women to produce their own music. She released her latest project, Running, at age 80 in 2018, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Grammy Awards.