Dynamic and Iconic Performer, Lena Horne dies at 92

Internationally renowned singer, actress and activist, Lena Horne died last night, Sunday May 9, 2010 in Manhattan, New York. At 92 years-old, the famed actress, who helped integrate black performers into Hollywood’s once racially exclusive world, lived a full and storied life. She achieved a host of firsts in her lifetime, including becoming the first African-American performer to receive a contract from a major Hollywood studio. Accomplishing this success was no easy feat for Lena, who for many years was almost exclusively relegated to singing musical numbers, which could easily be edited out of films.

“The only time I ever said a word to another actor who was white was Kathryn Grayson in a little segment of “Show Boat” included in “Till the Clouds Roll By (1946),” a movie about the life of Jerome Kern,” said Ms. Horne in a 1990 interview.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1917, Horne began her music career at New York City’s Cotton Club, in 1934. In the early 1940s, she became a jazz recording artists with RCA records, but left a short time thereafter to headline a nightclub gig on the west coast. During the same time, Horne also made her debut on the silver screen, mostly appearing in MGM musicals—her most famous, Cabin in the Sky (1943). Horne, unfortunately, was never featured as a leading actress because of her race. At the time, there existed strict rules in many theatres, which banned films featuring African American performers.

By 1945, Lena had become “the nation’s top Negro entertainer,” according to screenwriter and critic Frank Nugent. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Lena continued to act in films, television and produce music which have become classics. She played Glinda the good witch in “The Wiz” (1978), the film version of the all black Broadway music, based on the “Wizard of Oz.” In 1981, she won two Grammy awards for her album “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.”

Horne is survived by her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley. The gifts given to the world throughout Ms. Horne’s six-decade career— her activism, vivacity, sass and powerfully expressive voice, will be enjoyed by generations to come.

6 Responses to “Dynamic and Iconic Performer, Lena Horne dies at 92”

  1. Julie says:

    I just remember my mother having a scrapbook filled with some of her favorite movie stars from the 1940′s. One of the photos in there was of Len Horne, and I thought that she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen!

    Lena… you will be missed!

    Julie

  2. Lena Horne was much more than a beautiful woman and a gifted singer and actress. She was a trailblazer who thirsted for justice and agitated for change. She not only joined the famed March on Washington. She was part of a group that met with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, urging him to aggressively push for desegregation. After losing her husband and two close relatives in 1970-71, she also became a role model for everyone grappling with grief. Eventually, she conquered Broadway with her one-woman show, performing with the passion of a pioneer and survivor. Betty DeRamus

  3. Lena Horne was much more than a beautiful woman and a gifted singer and actress. She was a trailblazer who thirsted for justice and agitated for change. She not only joined the famed March on Washington. She was part of a group that met with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, urging him to aggressively push for desegregation. After losing her husband and two close relatives in 1970-71, she also became a role model for everyone grappling with grief. Eventually, she conquered Broadway with her one-woman show, performing with the passion of a pioneer and survivor. Betty DeRamus
    +1

  4. wow she is amazing!!

  5. NWHM says:

    She was indeed a very remarkable woman. A prodigiously talented actress and singer, and as Betty pointed out in her post, a dedicated social activist and humanitarian.

  6. NWHM says:

    You are absolutely right Betty! She was an incredibly dedicated activist and humanitarian in addition to her talent as an actress/singer. Thank you for pointing that out.

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