Born in Asheville, North Carolina, and raised in Arlington,Virginia, Roberta Flack discovered her earliest musical influences from the church. The local AME Zion Church gave everyone the opportunity to get out of the house, but, as Roberta recalls, the music "didn't have the raunchy, wide-open, free, spontaneous, full-of-life thing that you could hear at the Baptist Church down the street." Whenever she could, she'd sneak over there to hear such gospel luminaries as Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers. At home, Roberta's father repaired an old upright piano, and she began to pick out tunes while sitting on her mother's lap. When she turned nine, she began taking piano lessons, and also started to listen to a wide range of popular music, R&B, jazz, blues, and pop.