Jazz singer, actor and civil rights activist strongly influenced by Billie Holiday
If Abbey Lincoln
was overwhelmed by the responsibility of being proclaimed "the last of the jazz singers", she never let it show. As her great contemporaries and principal influences among the classic female jazz vocalists fell away – with Billie Holiday
the first to go, in 1959, and Betty Carter the last, in 1998 – Lincoln steadfastly maintained her dignified, almost solemn, focus; her tart, deftly timed Holiday-like inflections, and her commitment to songs that dug deeper into life's meanings than the usual lost-love exhalations.
And, like Ella Fitzgerald
, who all her life took to a stage as if she were surprised to find anyone had come to see her, Lincoln became the opposite of a celebrated jazz diva. In some of her London performances during the 1990s, she would sit quietly beside the piano, tugging at her clothes, like someone who