I told myself that I wouldn’t let the 1-year anniversary of Abbey Lincoln’s death pass without me saying a few words about it. So when I fell ill this past Friday morning and ended up in the ICU of D.C.’s Sibley Memorial Hospital, I was understandably miffed. Well, thank goodness for laptops and free hospital Wi-Fi.
Abbey Lincoln was, to me, one hell of a woman. She was the epitome of “real”, way before keeping it real started going wrong. She was –for lack of a better term– “one classy broad.”
I was first introduced to the work of Ms. Lincoln in 2004, when I watched a DVD copy of For Love of Ivy (1968). I was at work on a Saturday night (yes, I watched DVDs at work) and I was in the mood for something good. I’d never heard of the film prior to that year, and I think I bought the DVD mainly because the debonair Sidney Poitier was on the cover, embracing a beautiful black woman. I read the synopsis and learned that it centered on a single black man and woman who are set up on a date by the woman’s white employers. I won’t give too much else away, as not to spoil it for those who haven’t yet seen it. But it seemed like my kind of film. I mean, black love on the big screen, in the sixties– who knew?
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and got to work on finding out who this Abbey Lincoln was.
I Googled her name, and the first thing that popped up at the time was “jazz legend Abbey Lincoln.” By 2004, I had not yet learned to appreciate jazz music the way I do now. All I was interested in finding out was what other films she had starred in.
Prior to her titular turn in For Love of Ivy, Ms. Lincoln had a brief singing cameo in 1959’s The Girl Can’t Help It, in which she sported an evening dress made famous six years earlier by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
In 1964, Lincoln starred opposite actor/director Ivan Dixon (Hogan’s Heroes, The Spook Who Sat By The Door) in the groundbreaking Nothing But A Man.
And in one of her last screen appearances, Abbey Lincoln was seen playing Lillian, the mother of young Bleek Gilliam in 1990’s Mo’ Better Blues.
Ms. Lincoln was not just known for her work in entertainment, but also for her impact on black popular culture. Lincoln was one of the first black actresses to tackle the then very controversial issue of black female images in film. In October 1968, Lincoln gave the following interview to Ebony magazine, which you can read HERE.
Check out this video of Lincoln from the rarely seen The Music Is The Magic:
No disrespect, but like I said before, that Abbey Lincoln was “one classy broad.” Let’s remember her, shall we?