Today I'd like to pay tribute to a lady that I’ve admired for a great portion of my life…Ms. Lena Horne. She passed away yesterday in New York at the age of 92.
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When I was a little girl, I loved spending my Sundays watching the classic movies on television, especially musicals, from the golden age of Hollywood. I would watch and be transported to another world of beauty, make-believe, and elegance. I imagined myself dancing around with Fred Astaire or making an entrance like the great Bette Davis. I was absorbed into that world and it was part of my 'play' when I was growing up. It fueled my imagination.
Then one day, I saw her…Lena Horne, and I was a fan from that moment on (smile). There she was…elegant and beautiful and talented. She could do something that I wanted to do so much…she could sing! And she got to wear beautiful clothes while doing it…hey, I was a baby fashionista back then (smile).
When I saw Ms. Horne, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lady that looked like she could be a relative. I had always watched all of the MGM musicals and various movies and loved them no matter who was starring in them. But it was a revelation in my young life then to see this beautiful, talented lady on film who looked like me. She was rare then, as the first black performer to be signed to a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. So she was not only talented…she was a trailblazer too. Sadly though, she was held back in the 1940s, because of the color of her skin. She would perform one or two songs in various MGM movies that could be easily edited out of the film in order for it to be played in certain areas. What garbage I say! I should use the other word I thought of. LOL.
Anyway, she had two movies where she was given the spotlight that she deserved, in 1943, with all-black casts. She made “Cabin in the Sky” for MGM and was loaned to 20th Century Fox for my favorite, “Stormy Weather”. And one of her signature songs was the beautiful “Stormy Weather” that she sang in the film. Please take a look at her performance here. So no matter what she had to deal with, she is still going to be remembered always, and she triumphed despite the odds. I love that! I feel like watching “Stormy Weather” right now. I’m going to have to buy a copy somewhere (smile).
Besides her movie career, she was a very popular singer in elegant clubs, onstage, and on many recordings. In 1981, she was the toast of Broadway with her one woman show, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music” , for which she won a Tony Award.
Photo credit - Christian Steiner/AP
I wanted to go to see her onstage back then, but I was a young teen who couldn’t be out on a school night (smile) and I didn’t have the money to go to New York. This was the time in my life when I couldn’t wait to be grown, so I could just go where I wanted, when I wanted. Of course I learned later, like we all do, that we shouldn’t rush growing up. But it was still fun to fantasize (smile).
I grew up as a typical child and teen of the 70s and 80s, with lots of love for my faves of those days…like Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna…just like a lot of kids my age. However, I also had lots of love for the ladies and gents who paved the way in those early days, not just as entertainers, but also as important threads in the tapestry of the American culture. They made change in their own way.
Photo credit: Garth Vaughan/AP
Lena Horne was a great performer, a trailblazer, and a civil rights activist also. I honor her memory today. Rest in peace…Ms. Horne. Thank you for shining your light in this world!