Jazz singer Abbey Lincoln passed away this weekend in New York City and I couldn’t think of a better way to pay tribute than share words from author and This American Life contributor David Sedaris. Abbey was one of his favorite singers and he talked about her as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project, where we ask cultural personalities to choose 5 songs that have inspired them throughout their lives. Abbey’s “I Should Care,” from an album she did with pianist Hank Jones, made David’s list.
David Sedaris: Abbey Lincoln is…oh my goodness, it’s interesting to go and listen to her very first records and then watch how she changes and how far out there she goes and then she’ll pull herself back a bit. Like I don’t know if you would ever call her voice beautiful, I mean it’s not necessarily what you would think of as a melodic singing voice, but it’s a perfect jazz-voice I think.
I think I heard her…I don’t think my Dad turned me onto her. I was listening to the Public Radio Station in Raleigh, North Carolina and there was a jazz station in Durham, North Carolina—that’s where it was — and they played her and I just, Wow. Just from the very first song that I heard I was crazy about her.
You know people say that all the time—”I have to be your biggest fan.” But I have to be her biggest fan. I really have to. That said–I wouldn’t want to see her in person. Like I don’t like seeing people in person, like hearing them sing in person. Because I want them to sound exactly how they sound on the record. I don’t want any variation, I’m just happy to listen to the songs over and over and over again.