"He and my mother hoped that the piano would inspire me. Both of them were musical people, they wanted to encourage me", said the legendary singer.
A man named Laron LeRoy wanted to gift his daughter a piano but he could not afford it. He found a piano in a local junkyard and then painted it green. This was his gift to his daughter and soon-to-become legendary singer, Roberta Flack. This is a story from Flack's autobiographical book, The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music. The refurbished piano also symbolizes Flack's parents' encouragement of their musically inclined daughter, reported TODAY.
In her email interview with TODAY, Flack reflected on why her father went to great lengths to support her artistry. Flack, now 85, was diagnosed with ALS on November 22. The disease "has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak,” Flack’s manager Suzanne Koga said in a release at the time. "He and my mother hoped that the piano would inspire me. Both of them were musical people, they wanted to encourage me. They had been told that I had potential," Flack wrote.
Flack also told PEOPLE how the green piano had given her the wings of music that as a 9-year-old girl she needed so badly. "I've been knocked down so many times, but I kept trying. Keep trying."
The beautifully illustrated book, co-written with Tonya Bolden, tells the story of the music legend's tryst with excellence and hits such as Killing Me Softly With His Song and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
Flack was born in Black Mountain, NC and her childhood was filled with music. Her mother, Irene Council Flack, was a church organist and her parents often had jam sessions at home. Having grown up amidst melodies, Flack recommends such a musical environment for any child, even ones who don't go on to win five Grammys.
"A home filled with music gives children another language to express themselves. As my friend Angela Davis said, 'Music helps us to feel what we may not be able to say,'" Flack said. The documentary Roberta, which released in 2022, covers her at her pinnacle of success. However, The Green Piano (2023) is set in Flack's childhood, before she became a legend.
Flack took early piano lessons and then went to Howard University on scholarship at 15 years of age. She was discovered in a nightclub and Atlantic Records signed up with her. Music and childhood are synonymous for Flack which is what she has set out to explore in her first autobiographical book written for children. "Although I no longer play or sing, when I experience music — it's so much more than just 'listening' for me — I connect to my parents, my teachers, my fans, my peers. Everyone. Music is everything to me," she said.
In the book, we see the journey of a girl whose talent was nurtured. In Flack's career too, one can see how talent that is nurtured will flourish and excel. Flack also had a message for musical children who wish to follow their dreams: “Find your own ‘green piano’ and practice relentlessly until you find your voice, and a way to put that beautiful music into the world.”
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Paras Griffin