Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln in concert, 1966
Background information
Birth name Anna Marie Wooldridge
Born (1930-08-06)August 6, 1930
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died August 14, 2010(2010-08-14) (aged 80)
New York, New York, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, actress, civil rights activist
Instruments Vocals
Years active 19562007
Labels Riverside, Verve

Anna Marie Wooldridge (August 6, 1930 August 14, 2010), known by her stage name Abbey Lincoln, was an American jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress, who wrote and performed her own compositions. She was a civil rights advocate and activist from the 1960s on.[1][2]


Born in Chicago but raised in Calvin Center, Cass County, Michigan, Lincoln was one of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday. She often visited the Blue Note jazz club in New York City.[3] Her debut album, Abbey Lincoln's Affair A Story of a Girl in Love, was followed by a series of albums for Riverside Records. In 1960 she sang on Max Roach's landmark civil rights-themed recording, We Insist! Lincoln’s lyrics were often connected to the civil rights movement in America.[4]

During the 1980s, Lincoln’s creative output was smaller and she released only a few albums during that decade. Her song "For All We Know" is featured in the 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy. During the 1990s and until her death, however, she fulfilled a 10-album contract with Verve Records. After a tour of Africa in the mid-1970s, she adopted the name Aminata Moseka.[5]

These albums are highly regarded and represent a crowning achievement in Lincoln’s career. Devil’s Got Your Tongue (1992) featured Rodney Kendrick, Grady Tate, J. J. Johnson, Stanley Turrentine, Babatunde Olatunji and The Staple Singers, among others.[6] In 2003, Lincoln received a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award.[7]


Greg Morris, Abbey Lincoln, Mission:Impossible, 1971

In 1956 Lincoln appeared in The Girl Can’t Help It, for which she wore a dress that had been worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953), and interpreted the theme song, working with Benny Carter.[8]

With Ivan Dixon, she co-starred in Nothing But a Man (1964), an independent film written and directed by Michael Roemer. In 1968 she also co-starred with Sidney Poitier and Beau Bridges in For Love of Ivy,[8] and received a 1969 Golden Globe nomination for her appearance in the film.

Television appearances began in 1968 with The Name of the Game. In March 1969 for WGBH-TV Boston, in one of a 10-episode series of individual dramas written, produced and performed by blacks, "On Being Black," was her work in Alice Childress's Wine in the Wilderness.[9] She later appeared in Mission: Impossible (1971), the telemovie Short Walk to Daylight (1972),[10] Marcus Welby, M.D. (1974), and All in the Family (1978).

In the 1990 Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, Abbey Lincoln played the young Bleek's mother, Lillian.[11]

Personal life

Lincoln was married from 1962 to 1970 to drummer Max Roach, whose daughter from a previous marriage, Maxine, appeared on several of Lincoln’s albums.

Lincoln died on August 14, 2010 in Manhattan, eight days after her 80th birthday.[6] Her death was announced by her brother, David Wooldridge, who told The New York Times that she had died in a Manhattan nursing home after suffering deteriorating health ever since undergoing open-heart surgery in 2007. No cause of death was officially given. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered.[12]


With Max Roach

With Cedar Walton


  1. Griffen, Anders (December 2012). "The Abbey Lincoln Collection, 1949-2008 (MC 101)". Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University Libraries. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  2. Chinen, Nate (August 14, 2010). "Abbey Lincoln, Jazz Singer and Writer, Dies at 80". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  3. "Abbey Lincoln". Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved August 2, 2007.
  4. Sally Placksin. "Jazz Profiles from NPR: Abbey Lincoln". Retrieved August 2, 2007.
  5. Simmonds, Yussuf J. (August 21, 2010). "Aminata Moseka (Abbey Lincoln)". Los Angeles Sentinel. Bakewell Media. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  6. 1 2 Fordham, John. "Abbey Lincoln obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  7. NEA Jazz Masters Awards Archived September 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.,; accessed October 31, 2015.
  8. 1 2 "Abbey Lincoln at". Retrieved August 2, 2007.
  9. Selected Plays – By Alice Childress, Kathy A. Perkins. Northwestern University Press, IL. 2011.
  10. Short Walk To Daylight, 1972.
  11. Mo' Better Blues Full Cast, IMDb; accessed October 7, 2014.
  12. Notice of death of Abbey Lincoln,; accessed August 2010.

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