Follow the music icon from a piano lounge through her rise to stardom, “Roberta Flack” on AMERICAN MASTERS, Jan. 24 at 9 pm< < Back to
American Masters Presents Broadcast Premiere of Roberta Flack January 24 on PBS
New film tells Flack’s story in her own words and includes interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Yoko Ono, Angela Davis, Eugene McDaniels, Joel Dorn, Peabo Bryson and more
From “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly” and beyond, Roberta Flack gave voice to a global soundtrack of beauty and pain, love and anguish, hope and struggle. American Masters: Roberta Flack illuminates where reality, memory and imagination mix to present music icon Roberta Flack, a brilliant artist who transformed popular culture, in her own words. With exclusive access to Flack’s archives of film, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, hit songs and unreleased music, the film documents how Flack’s musical virtuosity was inseparable from her lifelong commitment to civil rights. American Masters: Roberta Flack premieres nationwide Tuesday, January 24 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS, pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video App.
American Masters: Roberta Flack provides an intimate look into Flack’s artistry, life and triumphs over racism and sexism within and outside of the recording industry. Flack’s story is illuminated through interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson (political activist and minister), Clint Eastwood (actor, director and producer), Yoko Ono (multimedia artist, singer-songwriter, activist), Angela Davis (political activist), Eugene McDaniels (singer-songwriter), Joel Dorn (producer), Peabo Bryson (singer-songwriter), Valerie Simpson (songwriter, producer and performer), Les McCann (musician), Sean Lennon (musician) Jason King (music scholar, musician and author), Ann Powers (music critic, author) and more. In addition to Flack’s timeless music, the film also features an original score from award-winning musician Martin Perna of Antibalas (Fela!: The Musical).
A piano prodigy from an early age, Flack began studying classical piano at age 9 and was awarded a full music scholarship to Howard University at the age of 15. In 1968, moonlighting from her job as a music teacher with a regular gig at a Washington, DC, nightclub, her singular talent caught the eye of jazz great Les McCann, who arranged an audition for Flack with Atlantic Records, which led to the recording of her debut album, First Take. “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” a song from First Take, was personally selected by Clint Eastwood for his directorial debut Play Misty for Me, and it would win Flack a Grammy Award. The following year, she won a Grammy for “Killing Me Softly,” becoming the first artist to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in two consecutive years.
Throughout her extraordinary career, Flack established hit-making mentorships with Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and Peabo Bryson. Flack’s indelible career has spanned decades and produced countless hit songs, including “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “The Closer I Get to You.” The film chronicles how, throughout her pioneering career, Flack used her powerful platform to sing about the Black experience in America. She battled opinions of her mixed-race marriage, confronted blatant racism within the recording industry and created space for Black women to produce their own music. She released her latest project, Running, at age 80 in 2018, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
Now in its 36th season on PBS, American Masters illuminates the lives and creative journeys of our nation’s most enduring artistic giants—those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape—through compelling, unvarnished stories. Setting the standard for documentary film profiles, the series has earned widespread critical acclaim: 28 Emmy Awards—including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special—two News & Documentary Emmys, 14 Peabodys, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, an Oscar, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of more than 250 masters past and present, the American Masters website offers full episodes, film outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the podcast “American Masters: Creative Spark,” educational resources, digital original series and more. The series is a production of The WNET Group.
American Masters is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.