Roberta Flack wants to meet Lizzo at the 2020 Grammys

With her jazz-kissed soul, Roberta Flack killed the Grammys softly in the ’70s, winning four gramophones.

The 82-year-old singer-pianist remains the only solo artist to capture the prestigious Record of the Year twice in a row — for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in 1973 and then for “Killing Me Softly with His Song” in 1974.

Flack will get some more love at the 2020 Grammys on Sunday: She’ll receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The telecast at 8 p.m. ET on CBS will mark a rare public appearance for Flack since she suffered a stroke in 2016.

Over email — the only way Flack now does interviews since the stroke caused some problems with her speech — the longtime New Yorker reflects on hearing “Killing Me Softly” for the first time, duetting with Donny Hathaway and wanting to meet Lizzo at the Grammys.

How is your health after your stroke?
After a couple bumps in the road, my health is excellent. After a recent, regular checkup, I passed with flying colors. I have some age-appropriate abilities that do not keep me from much and I am enjoying my life with vibrancy, love and a lot of joy. That feels good to me, you know? I go to shows when I can. Every week I work with my musical director and my vocal coach to rehearse, vocalize and sing. I am able to enjoy [music] with all the passion I ever had for it.

Can you tell us about the first time you ever heard “Killing Me Softly with His Song”?
I heard “Killing Me Softly” on an airplane going from New York to Los Angeles. I listened to it over and over as the track repeated for hours. It was sung by Lori Lieberman [who originally recorded the song], and it mesmerized me. I couldn’t wait to run it down with my band. I performed it as my encore at the Hollywood Bowl. Quincy [Jones] said to me after I came off the stage: “Don’t perform that song again until you record it!”

Roberta Flack, circa 1970.
Roberta Flack, circa 1970.Getty Images

The Fugees also won a Grammy for their version of “Killing Me Softly.” How was it appearing in their video?
Being in their video was great! I was happy they asked me. There were a whole bunch of young folks in the video, so the vibe was up and energetic, as was their version. Lauryn [Hill] is so talented and a very strong singer, so it didn’t surprise me that she went on to do more after she worked with the Fugees.

Besides your solo work, you are known for your duets with the late Donny Hathaway. What was the secret to your special chemistry?
Donny was a beautiful and very talented person. We spoke a similar musical language and understood each other. You know, we both went to Howard [University]. It was so wonderful to be in the studio with him and work on songs together. I miss everything about Donny.

Have you seen yourself in any younger female artists?
I love listening to new artists and learning from them. I’m less interested in seeing myself [than] I am in relating to them. Besides the music itself, the connection is more from my heart than my head.

Who would you want to play you in a movie?
Well, since luck has it that a beautiful filmmaker, Antonino D’Ambrosio, is making a documentary about me right now, I guess the answer is that I would play myself!

Who are you looking forward to seeing at the Grammys?
I’m always happy to see Alicia [Keys, this year’s host]. I hope to have a chance to meet Lizzo, Kygo, Meghan Trainor, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez and tell them how much I love their music. It’s so great to have a seat in the room to experience it firsthand.

So who will you be rooting for?
That’s a secret.

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