Although she performed under a variety of names earlier in her career, jazz singer/songwriter Abbey Lincoln certainly didn’t suffer from any kind of identity crisis. Sometimes billed under her real name – Anna Marie Wooldridge – or as Anna Marie, Gaby Lee, and even Gaby Woolridge, she eventually became Abbey Lincoln, and by the time she died (at age 80) in 2010 she had established herself as one of the best.
The Chicago-born performer began her professional singing career in the 1950s, and before long she was working with pros like Benny Carter and Max Roach (who she would later marry). In addition to finding some success in the recording studio, she even managed to land a small singing part in a 1957 movie, foreshadowing her later success as an actress.
Originally inspired by Billie Holiday, Lincoln’s career really blossomed in the 1960s as she not only made several good albums with Roach but also began to use her music to help advance the civil rights movement. In fact, she became so identified with the cause that it might have hurt her musical career, but she didn’t let that slow her down.
As the years passed she kept busy by writing and performing music that helped further her beliefs, while also pursuing a parallel acting career. Her appearance in 1968’s For Love Of Ivy opposite Sidney Poitier earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and she also made a number of guest shots in TV dramas, while still continuing to perform meaningful music whenever possible. She continued working well into her seventies, and received a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award a few years before her death in 2010.
Abbey Lincoln – “Nature Boy”