Happy Birthday, Roberta Flack!

Roberta Flack in 1981
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Paul Natkin/Getty Images

It is our honor to wish happy birthday to the great Roberta Flack, born on Feb. 10, 1937.

Flack first appeared on most listeners’ radar with her cover of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” The track first appeared on her debut album First Take in 1969, but did not become a hit until more than two years later, when Clint Eastwood used the song in his film Play Misty for Me, and that placement sent the song and the album up to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1972.

By that time, Flack had made three more records, part of a wondrous run of high-quality and bestselling albums throughout the 1970s, including the classics Chapter Two (1970), Quiet Fire (1971) and 1977’s Blue Lights in the Basement, which featured the sweeping duet “The Closer I Get to You,” with Donny Hathaway.

Hathaway was a frequent Flack collaborator in the 1970s, beginning with the classic Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway in 1972, which featured the Top 5 hit “Where is the Love?” Hathaway’s death in 1979 brought an end to the truly special collaboration, a melding of spirits and voices that Flack celebrated in the 1980 album Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway, which included their take on Stevie Wonder’s “You Are My Heaven.”

Flack’s influence has spanned decades; she’s been name-checked in a number of songs by such acts as Red Hot Chili Peppers ("My Lovely Man") and Fall Out Boy ("What a Catch, Donnie") and her songs featured in several films, including X-Men: Days of Future Past. Arguably her biggest cultural moment since her hit-making days was when the Fugees covered her classic “Killing Me Softly with His Song” on their huge 1996 album The Score.

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Lionel Richie plays piano as he rehearses on stage at NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center for an appearance on the Saturday Night Live television show, New York, New York, December 10, 1982. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)
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