Singer Roberta Flack, 85, has been diagnosed with ALS — commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease — and can no longer sing, her manager says.

The American star, who is also a classically trained pianist, is best known for her hits Killing Me Softly With His Song and The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.

It made history when both hits won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in back-to-back years, with The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face winning in 1973 after Clint Eastwood used it as the theme song for a love scene in his 1971 film Play Misty For Me, and then won again for Killing Me Softly in 1974.

In a statement, Flack’s manager Suzanne Koga said the illness “made it impossible to sing and not easy to talk.”

However, he said “it’s going to take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon.”

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.

The announcement of the diagnosis comes days before a feature-length documentary about Flack and his career premieres Thursday at the DOC NYC documentary film festival in New York. It will air on US TV as part of PBS’ American Masters series in January.

Ms Koga said Flack “plans to remain active in her musical and creative pursuits”, including through her Roberta Flack charitable foundation which supports animal welfare and helps children, especially girls, with their education musical.

He also plans to release a children’s book co-written with Tonya Bolden called The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music.

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Born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia by pianist parents, Flack won a full scholarship to Howard University at just 15 thanks to her musical talent.

Flack said in a statement, “I’ve long dreamed of telling my story to kids about that first green piano my dad took me from the junkyard in hopes they’d be inspired to achieve their dreams.

“I want them to know that dreams can come true with persistence, encouragement from family and friends, and most of all, self-confidence.”

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The 50th anniversary commemoration of his fourth album, Killing Me Softly, will be celebrated with a reissue next year.

His label for the first three decades of his career, Atlantic Records, is also celebrating its 75th anniversary.

In 2016, Flack suffered a stroke, but was able to return to performing.

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