Flack’s story is told in his own words
From “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly” and beyond, Roberta Flack gave voice to a global soundtrack of beauty and pain, love and anguish, hope and struggle. PBS’ American Masters: Roberta Flack illuminates where reality, memory and imagination blend to present music icon Roberta Flack, a brilliant artist who transformed popular culture, in her own words. With exclusive access to Flack’s archive of films, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, hit songs and unreleased music, the film documents how inseparable Flack’s musical virtuosity was from his commitment of a lifetime for civil rights. American Masters: Roberta Flack premieres nationwide Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS, pbs.org, and the PBS Video App.
American Masters: Roberta Flack offers an intimate look at Flack’s artistry, life, and triumphs over racism and sexism inside and outside the recording industry. Flack’s story is informed by 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 (songwriter-singer), Valerie Simpson (songwriter, producer and performer), Les McCann (musician), Sean Lennon (musician) Jason King (musicologist, musician and author), Ann Powers (music critic, author) and more. In addition to Flack’s timeless music, the film also features an original score by award-winning musician Martin Perna of Antibalas (Fela!: The Musical).
A piano prodigy from an early age, Flack began studying classical piano at age nine and received a full music scholarship to Howard University at age 15. In 1968, black from his job as a music teacher with a regular gig at a Washington, D.C., nightclub, his singular talent caught the attention of jazz great Les McCann, who arranged an audition for Flack with Atlantic Records, which led to the recording of his debut album, First Take. “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”, a song by First Take, was personally selected by Clint Eastwood for his directorial debut Play Misty for Me, and it won 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 two years in a row.
Throughout his extraordinary career, Flack has established successful mentorships with Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and Peabo Bryson. Flack’s indelible career spans decades and has 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 about her intermarriage, confronted blatant racism within the recording industry, and created space for black women to produce their own music. She released her latest project, Functioningturned 80 in 2018, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
Now in its 36th season on PBS, American masters illuminates the lives and creative journeys of our nation’s most enduring artistic giants – those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape – through captivating and unvarnished stories. American masters is available for concurrent streaming on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. Members of the PBS station can watch many series, documentaries and specials through PBS Passport.