Lena Mary Calhoun Horne
June 30, 1917 – May 9, 2010
African American Role model, Jazz singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer. Lena Horne was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant ,Brooklyn, N.Y. on Saturday June 30. 1917 her sign was Cancer. She was of European American, Native American, and African-American descent. Her father, Edwin Fletcher “Teddy” Horne, Jr. was in the gambling high stakes business. He abandoned her and the family when she was three and moved to an upper-middle-class black community in the Hill District community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her mother, Edna Louise Scottron daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron, was an actress with a black theatre troupe and traveled extensively to do shows. Scottron’s maternal grandmother, Amelie Louise Ashton and Edwin Horne helped to raise Lena while her mother was pursuing her career. When she was five, she was sent to live in Georgia. For several years, she traveled with her mother. From 1927 to 1929 she lived with her uncle, Frank S. Horne, who was dean of students at Fort Valley Junior Industrial Institute and who would later became an adviser to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Lena briefly relocated to Atlanta with her mother; they returned to New York when she was 12 years old.She erolled in an All Girls High School in Brooklyn .She did not complete her academic studies there. she moved in with her father in Pittsburgh when she was 18 for approximately 5 years.
In the fall of 1933, She received employment at the Cotton Club in New York City in the Chorus Line. In the spring of 1934, she had a featured role in the Cotton Club Parade starring Adelaide Hall, who took Lena under her wing. Horne married Louis Jordan Jones in January 1937 in Pittsburgh. On December 21, 1937, their daughter, Gail who is now married and famous author was born there.They had a son, Edwin Jones born February 7, 1940. At the young age of 29 Edwin “Teddy” died from kidney failure on September 12, 1970. Lena and Jones her husband separated in 1940 and divorced in 1944.A few years later Horne joined Noble Sissle Orchestra, with which she toured and with whom she recorded her first record release, a 78rpm single issued by Decca Records. She toured with bandleader Charlie Barnet in 1940–41, but disliked the travel and left the band to work at the Café Society in New York. She replaced Dinah Shore as the featured vocalist on NBC’s popular jazz series The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street. The show’s resident maestros, Henry Levine and Paul Laval, recorded with Horne in June 1941 for RCA Victor. Horne already had two low-budget movies to her credit: a 1938 musical feature called The Duke is Tops and a 1941 two-reel short subject, Boogie Woogie Dream, featuring pianists Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons. Horne’s songs from Boogie Woogie Dream were later released individually as singles. Horne made her Hollywood nightclub debut at Felix Young’s Little Troc on the Sunset Strip in January 1942. A few weeks later, she was signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, becoming the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. In November 1944, she was featured in an episode of the popular radio series Suspense, as a fictional nightclub singer, with a large speaking role alongwith her singing. In 1945 and 1946.
She made her debut at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Panama Hattie 1942 and performed the title song of Stormy Weather based loosely on the life of Adelaide Hall, 1943. She appeared in a number of MGM musicals, most notably Cabin in the Sky also 1943, but was never featured in a leading role because of her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers. As a result, most of Horne’s film appearances were stand-alone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline; a notable exception was the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, although one number was cut because it was considered too suggestive by the censors. “Ain’t it the Truth” was the song and scene cut before the release of the film Cabin in the Sky. It featured Horne singing “Ain’t it the Truth”, while taking a bubble bath considered too “risqué” by the film’s executives. This scene and song are featured in the film That’s Entertainment! III 1994 which also featured commentary from Horne on why the scene was deleted prior to the film’s release. Lena Horne was the first African-American elected to serve on the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors.
In Ziegfeld Follies 1946 she performed “Love” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Horne wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM’s 1951 version of Show Boat having already played the role when a segment of Show Boat was performed in Till the Clouds Roll By but lost the part to Ava Gardner, a personal friend in real life, due to the Production Code ban on interracial relationships in films. In the documentary That’s Entertainment! III Horne stated that MGM executives required Gardner to practice her singing using Horne’s recordings, which offended both actresses. Ultimately, Gardner’s voice was overdubbed by actress Annette Warren for the theatrical release.
Her political views on civil rights was verbal in 1941 she sang at the Café Society During World War II when entertaing the troops for the USO she refused to perform for segregated audiences in which German POW”S were placed in front of the African American Soliders. In the next proceeding events she was at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the weekend before Evers was assassinated. She also met President John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated. She was at the March on Washington and spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC, and the National Council of Negro Women. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws.
By the mid-1950s, Horne was disenchanted with Hollywood and increasingly focused on her nightclub career. She only made two major appearances in MGM films during the 1950s: Duchess of Idaho and the 1956 musical Meet Me in Las Vegas. She was blacklisted during the 1950s for her political views.She returned to the screen three more times, playing chanteuse Claire Quintana in the 1969 film Death of a Gunfighter, Glinda in The Wiz 1978, a film younger audience members recognize her from, and co-hosting the MGM retrospective That’s Entertainment! III (1994), in which she was candid about her treatment by the studio.
After leaving Hollywood, Horne established herself as one of the premiere nightclub performers of the post-war era. She headlined at clubs and hotels throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. In 1957, a live album entitled, Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria, became the biggest selling record by a female artist in the history of the RCA Victor label. In 1958, Horne became the first African American woman to be nominated for a Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical” (for her part in the “Calypso” musical Jamaica) which, at Lena’s request featured her longtime friend Adelaide Hall.
From the late 1950s through the 1960s, Horne was a staple of TV variety shows, appearing multiple times on Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Bell Telephone Hour. Other programs she appeared on included The Judy Garland Show, The Hollywood Palace, and The Andy Williams Show. Besides two television specials for the BBC (later syndicated in the U.S.), Horne starred in her own U.S. television special in 1969, Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne. During this decade, the artist Pete Hawley painted her portrait for RCA Victor, capturing the mood of her performance style.
In 1970, she co-starred with Harry Belafonte in the hour-long Harry & Lena for ABC. Horne’s second marriage was to Lennie Hayton, who was Music Director and one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM, in December 1947 in Paris. They separated in the early 1960s, but never divorced; he died in 1971. In 1973 she co-starred with Tony Bennett in Tony and Lena. Horne and Bennett subsequently toured the U.S. and U.K. in a show together. In the 1976 program America Salutes Richard Rodgers, she sang a lengthy medley of Rodgers songs with Peggy Lee and Vic Damone. Horne also made several appearances on The Flip Wilson Show. She continued on with Public Relations word and Lena Horne played herself on television programs such as The Muppet Show, Sesame Streett and Sanford and Son , as well on The Cosby Show and appearance on A Different World. Lena Horne at 63 years old and intent on retiring from show business, embarked on a two-month series of benefit concerts sponsored by the sorority Delta Sigma Theta..
On April 13, 1980, Lena Horne, Luciano Pavarotti, and host Gene Kelly were all scheduled to appear at a Gala performance at the Metropolitan Opera House to salute the N Y City Center’s Joffrey Ballet Company. Pavarotti’s was unable to come insteas James Nederlander came as an Honored Guest He asked to be introduced to Lena following her performance. In May 1981, The Nederlander Organization, Michael Frazier, and Fred Walker went on to book Horne for a four-week engagement at the newly named Nederlander The show was an instant success and was extended to a full year run, garnering Horne a special Tony award, and two Grammy Awards for the cast recording of her show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. The 333-performance Broadway run closed on Horne’s 65th birthday, June 30, 1982. Later that same week, the entire show was performed again and videotaped for television broadcast and home video release. The tour began a few days later at Tanglewood ,Massachusetts during independence holiday weekend. The Lady and Her Music toured 41 cities in the U.S. and Canada through June 17, 1984. It played in London for a month in August and ended its run in Stockholm, Sweden.
In 1981, she received a Special Tony Award for her one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which also played to acclaim at the Adelphi Theatre in London in 1984. Despite the show’s considerable success Lena Horne still holds the record for the longest-running solo performance in Broadway history, she did not capitalize on the renewed interest in her career by undertaking many new musical projects. Her sole studio recording of the decade was 1988’s The Men in My Life, featuring duets with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joe Williams. In 1983 she was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP the highest award to be received by anyone. Harry Belefonte later received the same with Sidney Poitier presenting the award to him. In 1989 she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The 1990s found Horne considerably more active in the recording studio. Following her 1993 performance at a tribute to the musical legacy of her good friend Billy Strayhorn longtime collaborator, she decided to record an album composed largely of Strayhorn’s and Ellington’s songs the following year, We’ll Be Together Again. To coincide with the release of the album, Horne made what would be her final concert performances at New York’s Supper Club and Carnegie Hall. That same year, Horne also lent her vocals to a recording of “Embraceable You” on Sinatra’s Duets II album. Though the album was largely derided by critics, the Sinatra-Horne pairing was generally regarded as its highlight.
In 1995, a ‘live’ album capturing her Supper Club performance was released subsequently winning a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. In 1998, Horne released another studio album, entitled Being Myself.She retired from performing and largely retreated from public view, though she did return to the recording studio in 2000 to contribute vocal tracks on Simon Rattle Classic Ellington album.
Lena Horne at age 92 died on May 9, 2010, in New York City of heart failure. Horne’s funeral took place at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue in New York City. Thousands gathered to mourn her.
She who broke through decades of racial boundaries through perserverance with all best integrity. She was a fiercely determined campaigner for civil rights.She has been hailed by U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle as one of the “most cherished” entertainers in American history. She is missed and will never be forgotten. A true lady, mother, friend and leader in all genres.
Lena Horne and Teddy and Gail
May 14, 2010 Lena Horne Honored by Congress with Gold Medal
The resolution, introduced by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and passed unanimously by the entire Senate, recognized Horne’s lifelong efforts as an actress, singer and civil rights activist. Introducing the measure, Senator Gillibrand said, “Lena Horne’s legendary voice and her lifelong dedication to fighting inequality will continue to inspire future generations of Americans. While we join together to mourn the loss of an American treasure and icon, we also celebrate Lena Horne’s incredible life and legacy. I offer my condolences to her family and friends.”
The bipartisan resolution was co-sponsored by: Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Roland Burris (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Charles Schumer (D-NY).
Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) will be submitting a similar resolution in the United States House of Representatives in the coming days.
The Associated Press
Thousands of mourners are bidding a final farewell to jazz singer and actress Lena Horne in New York City. Horne was remembered at her funeral Friday as a shy girl from Brooklyn who broke through decades of racism to emerge as a world-class entertainer and social leader. She died Sunday at age 92.
Mourners at St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan included her granddaughter, actress Jenny Lumet, former Mayor David Dinkins and singer Chita Rivera.
Broadway star Audra McDonald stood over the casket and sang “Amazing Grace.”
Horne’s seductive voice dazzled the world for decades with tunes like “My Blue Heaven” and “Stormy Weather.” She was among a handful of black actors and actresses to have a contract with a major Hollywood studio.
Hugging Daughter, Writer Gail Lunet Buckley
Lena Horne’s Son Ted Jones Debuts As Singer in Los Angeles Jet Magazine, April 3, 1958
Lena Horne and the tuskegee airmen
Lena Horne and Hazel Scott
As she has stated “ I am a black woman. I am Free and I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become.
I’m Me, and I’m like nobody else”. Great words to live by and to learn from this legendary leader.