Thursday, February 17, 2000

Flack concert to promote breast cancer awareness

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Legendary songstress Roberta Flack is all too familiar with the devastating effects of breast cancer.

        Having lost her mother to the disease, Ms. Flack is actively involved in the fight to find a cure. Using her voice and her fame to increase public awareness, Ms. Flack has performed at several fund-raising events to benefit cancer research, working with celebrities such as Rosie O'Donnell and Judy Collins.

        In the spirit of Valentine's Day, Ms. Flack will perform at the Aronoff Center on Friday to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Titled “A Night of Love,” the concert will feature Ms. Flack doing what she does best: singing love songs.

        Reached by phone recently, Ms. Flack answered a few questions about her life, her loves and being a “diva.”

        Question: Why, other than for obvious personal reasons, has breast cancer awareness and research become such an important issue in your life?

        Answer: Though it is a disease that affects both males and females, it is mainly a woman's disease. Therefore, I think it is up to women to keep a focus on breast cancer and its need for research. I think the cure is right around the corner.

        Q: Is there a song you will perform at the concert that has special meaning to you?

A: I'm going to sing a song called “Eternally” that is certainly special in my mind. The lyrics speak of the transient quality of physical beauty, but the eternalness of love.

        I have in mind that it is about a young married couple; the wife has breast cancer and must undergo a mastectomy. She's worried that her husband won't find her attractive anymore, but he reassures her that “love is all that matters” in their relationship and that she will be no less beautiful in his eyes.

        Q: You sing a lot of love songs. Do you have favorites?

        A: Anything by Stevie (Wonder) and Gladys (Knight) is wonderful.

        Q: Do you practice your songs in the shower?

        A: I don't sing songs in there, but it is a good place to warm up my voice because of all the steam!

        Q: How did you spend the eve of the millennium?

A: I was in Albany, N.Y., with Vonda Shepard.

        Q: The Ally McBeal singer?

        A: Yeah, that's right. We performed to a crowd of about 13,000 people. It was a good time.

        Q: Did you make any resolutions?

        A: Of course, all of those that I make every year. I resolved to just do better all around; pay more attention to my health, work harder on my music, and I want to work hard to make my marriage a good one. This is my second marriage and I want to do well this time.

        Q: Where do you and your husband, Winston, live?

        A: We're in Miami, Fla., but I'm only there part-time. I travel a lot.

        Q: Do you enjoy the traveling?

        A: Not as much as I used to. I enjoy vacation traveling because your body and mind adjust to that relaxed mode and it's much different from traveling for work.

        Q: What is your favorite vacation spot?

        A: Barbados and Jamaica. I have property in Barbados and I used to live in Jamaica off and on for about nine years.

        Q: What comfort food do you turn to when things get hectic?

A: Start with A and go to Z! I guess I'd have to say hot grits with butter are my favorite. Growing up in North Carolina we ate a lot of good casseroles and stews, too. It wasn't necessarily nutritious, but it fed a lot of people for not a lot of money.

        Q: Did you have a crush on anyone growing up?

        A: Hmmm . . . I guess I'd have to say I definitely had a crush on my high school gym teacher.

        Q: You started performing at a young age. When did you realize that you'd made it big?

A: When Clint Eastwood called me at my mother's home to ask if he could use my song, “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” in one of his movies (Play Misty for Me, in 1971). My jaw just dropped.

        Q: You've been given the honorary title of “diva” by many. How do you feel about this title?

A: I'm not sure. I think that the word has a lot of negatives associated with it, like being someone who is difficult to work with and pretentious. I'm none of those things, but I suppose if people mean it in a positive way, I appreciate it. I'm classically trained though, and I always thought a diva was more of a pop/soul queen, so I'm not sure I agree with it.

        Q: Lauryn Hill's remake of “Killing Me Softly” was named the No. 1 remake of all time by an area radio station recently. Are you flattered when you are imitated?

A: Absolutely! I thought Lauryn's remake was fantastic and it opened up my music to a whole new generation of listeners. She's made a remake of “Feel Like Makin' Love” too and I can't wait to hear it.

        Q: How did you spend your birthday? (She turned 62 on Feb. 10)

A: With my husband in Miami. It's great because this is the first time in the five years that I've known him that we will get to spend it together.

        Q: Looking back over the years, is there anything professionally or personally that you still want to accomplish.

A: I'd love to do some acting, write more music, and find the inspiration I need to keep writing and performing. And I'd love to take classical music and transcribe it into pop. I love Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven, all the romantics. I've been blessed with a great life, though, and I appreciate all I have and have done thus far.

        IF YOU GO

        • Who: Roberta Flack Valentine concert with the Sax Sensations

        • When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

        • Where: Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., downtown

        • Tickets: $42.50, $40.50 and $38.50 at Ticketmaster outlets or call 241-7469


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