Lincoln was one of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday. She often visited the Blue Note jazz club in New York City. 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. 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. 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. In 2003, Lincoln received a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award.
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. 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, and received a 1969 Golden Globe nomination for her appearance in the film. In the 1990 Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, she played young Bleek Gilliams’ mother.
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 at the age of 80. 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.
- August, 06, 1930
- Chicago, Illinois
- August, 14, 2010
- Manhattan, New York