Born in Chicago and raised in rural Michigan, Abbey Lincoln began performing while still in high school. In 1951, she moved to the West Coast, working under various names (Gaby Lee, Anna Marie, Gaby Wooldridge) before settling on Abbey Lincoln. She recorded her first album with jazz great Benny Carter in 1956 and appeared in the 1957 film, The Girl Can't Help It. Lincoln then recorded a series of albums for the Riverside label with drummer Max Roach, who had introduced her to the label's owner.
Lincoln's collaborations with Roach (to whom she was married from 1962-
70) lasted more than a decade, and included the seminal recording, Freedom
Now Suite in 1960. This was the beginning of a more social and
political activist approach to her music. Over the years, she has worked
with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy,
Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis, Jackie McLean, Clark Terry, and Stan Getz.
Lincoln returned to her influences in 1987, recording two albums in tribute to Billie Holiday, and then a series of recordings for Verve throughout the 1990s that showcased her writing prowess. Her emotionally honest, mature style is still revered, and Lincoln continues to perform and tour with a new trio.
Abbey was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2003.