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Roberta Flack cares

The Grammy Award winner performs Feb. 15 in Tacoma

ROBERTA FLACK: Not too busy for Tacoma. Press photo

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On any given morning, after eating her daily oatmeal, and feeding her several dogs, legendary musician Roberta Flack gets busy in her New York City home - busy rehearsing, busy planning, busy listening to or writing music.

"I'm a busy person. I have a busy personality," Flack says over the phone. "I have ongoing commitments constantly. ... And now with the Internet slapping you in the face, there's really no excuse. You gotta be motivated to move and make something."
All this gusto from a woman who has enchanted the jazz, soul and R&B scene with her singing, songwriting and piano skills since the late '60s, earning two consecutive Grammy awards in '73 and '74 with chart-toppers, "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly with His Song," respectively.

After an outpouring of love for her craft, Flack's workaholic showgirl persona steps back and another side comes out - she asks me if I have pets.

I tell her I have two chickens, and she's delighted, diving into a story of rescuing a chicken in Central Park five years ago, and how it's alive and well today at a farm "doing whatever it is that chickens do."

We share a chuckle, and more of Flack's nurturing side is exposed as she begins to tell me about her organization, Real Artist's Symposium, which is a group of bright and creative young musicians whom Flack mentors, providing an environment where they can excel.

"All kinds of wonderfully talented young people who have degrees or studied classical music and now are trying to take this incredible interest that the entire United States - the entire universe - has in the minds of young people, and give it their all," says Flack. "Hip-hop is one of them. There's really great jazz and really great fusion musicians, too. These are kids who have classical music at their fingertips and can play anything."

Flack has an album she's working on with songs collaborated between her and the Real Artist's Symposium students.

Flack says all the pupils have moved on, but she was especially fond of reminiscing about Marcus Miller, a jazz student who ended up playing with the Saturday Night Live band, among other notable accomplishments, including composing 350 songs.

"I remember when Marcus made himself known to Miles Davis," says Flack. The story reveals a time when she, Miles Davis, Prince and Marcus Miller were hanging around Davis' house on Riverside Drive in New York.

"They are all Geminis," says Flack, a smile in her voice. "What an incredible energy."
Because of this meeting of minds, Flack tells me, Miller went on to compose, direct and record an entire album for Davis, Tutu.

As our conversation dives deeper, Flack reveals she's the spokesperson for The American Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty, and she's active with the Roberta Flack School of Music, which provides education to underprivileged kids.

Flack is so much more than a legendary musician. Her empathetic background shines when I asked her if she wouldn't mind me placing her on hold after my 3-year-old shouted across the room, "Wipe my butt mom!" Talk about mortifying. But Flack was cool.

"That's important," she concurred as I explained my situation.

After another chuckle, we continued to talk about Flack's career. Last February, she released an album of Beatles cover songs, Let It Be Roberta, and in the works is another cover album - a tribute to Marvin Gaye. She's also exploring songwriting with author Maya Angelou.

And the busy Roberta Flack has no plans of retirement anytime soon.

"When you have a chance to do things, why not do them," she says. "I don't see any need to slow down."

Flack performs Friday, Feb. 15 at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma. Catch her before she's off to her next big project.

PANTAGES THEATER, FRIDAY, FEB. 15, 7:30 P.M., $49-$109, 901 BROADWAY, TACOMA, 253.591.5894

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