Lena Horne, Sultry ‘Stormy Weather’ Singer Dies at 92 (Video)
May 10, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-Lena Horne, the sultry jazz singer who broke Hollywood’s racial barrier with her beauty and talent, died on Sunday at the age of 92. Horne is best remembered for her glamorous rendition of the song “Stormy Weather” in a 1943 musical of the same name. Lorne also was known for her work as a nightclub performer and a Broadway actress; most notably, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” which earned Horne a special Tony award.
Horne began her career, as a 16-year-old dancer and chorus girl at the famed New York Cotton Club, before establishing a reputation as a sought-after cabaret singer, during the big band era of the 40s. She was particularly famous for her frequent appearances at the famed Cafe Society Downtown in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Hollywood soon came calling, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer signing her to a seven-year contract, making Lorne the first African American to earn a long-term contract in Hollywood’s big leagues.
The gorgeous and sophisticated Horne, refused stereotypical black roles of the time as maids and servants. As a result, Horne was usually cast as a stand-alone singer, so her scenes could be easily erased to comply with the South’s onerous Jim Crow laws, which forbid the showing of black performers in films.
Horne was known for her civil rights work and she made a principled stand, while entertaining the troops during World War II. Integrated audiences weren’t allowed at the time, so USO tours entertained white soldiers first, before singing for black soldiers. But she was horrified to find white German POWs sitting in front with the black soldiers in the last rows. She promptly turned her back on the German POWs and directed her performance to the black troops forced in the back. During future USO tours she refused to perform for segregated audiences.
During the 50s Horne was blacklisted from Hollywood for her civil rights activities and she resumed her nightclub career. In 1957, she recorded the live album, “Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria,” which became the largest selling record by a female artist in RCA’s history.
Horne realized she was able to achieve her success in the entertainment industry, because she was light-skinned and blessed with looks that white people found non-threatening. “I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept,” Horne once said. “I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.”
Horne was married twice and her second marriage to white studio composer Lennie Hayton, was so controversial at the time, she kept it secret for three-years after the marriage. Lena Horne is survived by her daughter Gail Buckley. Her son Teddy, died of kidney disease at 29.
Enjoy below, Lena Horne’s signature performance of Stormy Weather: