Anna Marie Wooldridge (August 6, 1930 – August 14, 2010), known professionally as Abbey Lincoln, was an American jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress. She was a civil rights activist beginning in the 1960s. Lincoln made a career not only out of delivering deeply felt presentations of standards but writing and singing her own material.
Born in Chicago but raised in Calvin Center, Cass County, Michigan, 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. After a tour of Africa in the mid-1970s, she adopted the name Aminata Moseka.
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, Yoron Israel, 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.
Her lyrics often reflected the ideals of the civil rights movement and helped in generating passion for the cause in the minds of her listeners. In addition to her musical career, she ventured into acting as well and appeared in movies such as The Girl Can’t Help It and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. She explored more philosophical themes during the later years of her songwriting career and remained professionally active until well into her seventies.