Lena Horne, 1917-2010

Lena Horne is being remembered with the respect and admiration that her talent and tenacity won her in decades of struggle and refusal to compromise. Her travails and triumphs are recounted in dozens of obituaries on the air, on web sites and in publications around the world. This one from The New York Times has the essential details of her remarkable life. The stories emphasize the prejudices she battled, the barriers she shattered and the major stardom as an actress that bigotry denied her. Understandably, the accounts concentrate more on the drama of her life than on the nature of her artistic gifts.
Ms. Horne was a first-class singer in all aspects of the craft. As I watched and heard her pour herself into the song in the video below, I thought of her telling how Billy Strayhorn, her closest friend, made of her not just a singer, but a musician. This was Lena Horne in 1967, when she was 50, a fine actress and a great singer.

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  1. says

    Can’t remember where I read it, but Horne was, together with Eartha Kitt and Marian Anderson, one of the few celebrities who spoke up after Louis Armstrong made those famous comments about Governor Faubus and President Eisenhower back in 1957. Some other people did too, but if I remember correctly jazz musicians were conspicuously absent.