Lincoln, Abbey

Lincoln, Abbey (b. Anna Marie Wooldridge)

(1930–  ) jazz singer, composer/arranger, movie actress; born in Chicago, Ill. While a teenager she sang at school and church functions and then toured locally with a dance band. At age 19 she won an amateur singing contest in Michigan and went to California where she sang in nightclubs (under her name, Anna Marie). She went to Hawaii as a resident club singer, but in 1954 returned to sing in clubs around Hollywood, now using the name "Gaby Lee." In 1956 she changed her name to "Abbey Lincoln" and made her first album under that name. In the early 1960s she began to work with drummer Max Roach and his band—she and Roach were briefly married (1962–70)—and she not only turned to jazz singing but also became more involved in African-Americans' struggle for civil rights. She recorded Roach's Insist! Freedom Now Suit (1960). As her career took off, she toured worldwide as a soloist and appeared on radio and television; she costarred in the movie Nothing But a Man (1963) but it was ahead of its time; she also starred in For Love of Ivy (1968). Traveling and performing in Africa in the early 1970s, she decided to adopt a new name, "Aminata Moseka," in tribute to her African roots, but then she seemed to drop out of sight professionally. In the early 1990s, however, as Abbey Lincoln again, she revived her career, with both recordings and live performances; she was the subject of a Public Broadcasting System documentary, "You Gotta Pay the Band " (1992); and she came to be recognized as one of the truly fine jazz singers of her generation.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.