One of twelve children, Lincoln was brought up on a farm in Michigan, and at the age of fourteen moved to Kalamazoo with her mother, where she started performing in high school. She began singing with a local band there, after moving to California she worked professionally both there and in Honolulu under the name Anne Marie, after other name changes she become Abbey Lincoln and made her first album, backed by Benny Carter. Meeting Max Roach (who was her husband from 1962-70), through whom she met many leading musician, including Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. At this time she was influenced by them to explore a wider range of vocal techniques, and began to use a richer poetic style and greater cultural and political content in her songs.
She became a strong public advocate for racial equality and this issue was reflected in her lyrics, and in the energy ,boldness, and at times, violence of her vocal style. In the late 1960s her career as an actress took on a new impetus, and she appeared in several films (e.g. films by Spike Lee).
In 1975 she visit Africa where the new name Aminata and Moseka was conferred on her used by African politicians in Guinea and Zaire respectively. In the 1980's she employed younger musicians such as Steve Coleman, and in the 1990's her recordings and performing career moved into a higher gear.
Her distinctive style, and influence on Cassandra Wilson among others is marked by the example of Billie Holiday but the subject matter of her writing aspires to the wisdom and the simplicity of a folk singer.
Lincoln's new CD is an inspiring collection of words and music that captures the heart and enriches the soul. She has returned to the warm, gentle style that characterized her early work.