Roberta Flack has unveiled the never-before-heard track "Hush-A-Bye" in tandem with the release of the 50th Anniversary Reissue of her 1969 debut album First Take. The Deluxe Reissue ships today (July 24) - you can preview the song below.
"Hush-A-Bye," one of the 12 demo recordings featured on First Take: 50th Anniversary Edition, underscores the 83-year-old singer's illustrious ability to convey the human experience as one of music's great storytellers.
"I used to sing this song in my sets at Mr. Henry’s," Flack shared to Billboard in reflection of her storied career. "I used this lullaby to illustrate the travesty of slavery as seen through the lens of a mother singing to her unborn baby with both hope and despair. Today, this song speaks to the importance of connecting our nation’s shameful cruelty to our current understanding of the imprisonment of oppression."
She reminisced further, "I also included this song when I performed in Ghana at the 'Soul to Soul' festival in 1971. I went with the Staple Singers, Ike and Tina Turner, Santana, Wilson Pickett and many others to see the port from which slave ships departed for America. We were profoundly moved to stand where our ancestors had in the last moments before they left Africa for a life of slavery and suffering that’s continued through the generations to this day."
Flack also highlights her heartfelt take on musical activism in another addition within the Deluxe Reissue, "Tryin' Times," a response to "the Vietnam War and civil rights."
Said the "Killing Me Softly with His Song" legend, "Sadly in 2020, Donny’s [Hathaway] song is about the present: this pandemic, growing economic disparities, police brutality, activism vs. apathy and the need for each of us to see it, address it and do what we can to make this all better. We must always remember that love and what connects us is stronger than fear, hate and what divides us."
Earlier this year, Flack was honored by the Recording Academy as a 2020 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Having consistently championed the mantra of "Love is a song," she shared, "It was breathtaking to be acknowledged for what I've tried to give the world throughout my career."
"I’ve told my truths as simply and as honestly as I could, always keeping in mind that “less is more” to quote my friend Les McCann. Love — finding love, losing love, making love, creating love — is what defines the most powerful and transformative experiences in life. I believe deeply in the need to nurture and educate our children, who are our future. I hope my music will continue to inspire people to find their courage to feel their truth and tell their stories."
Roberta Flack First Take: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, released today (July 24), is available only at SoulMusic.com for $49.98 and is strictly limited to 3,000 copies.