Lena Horne

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Lena Horne (1941)

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne (born June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn , New York City , † May 9, 2010 in Manhattan , New York City) was an American singer and actress .

Live and act

Lena Horne, who had not only African-American , but also European and Indian ancestors, already had her first stage appearances at the side of her mother Edna Scottron, a touring actress. In 1934 she made her debut as a dancer at the renowned Cotton Club , where she also sang in the Cab Calloway orchestra . With the Noble Sissles orchestra she went on tour in 1935/36 and took two plate sides for Decca Records on (That's What Love Means to Me and I Take to You) . When her career was just about to begin, she married and did not return to the stage and music scene until 1938, had a small role in the film The Duke Is Tops , then made her debut on Broadway as "A Quadroon Girl" in the musical Dance with Your Gods , appeared in Blackbirds in 1939 and sang in Charlie Barnets Orchestra ( Good for Nothing Joe , Haunted Town 1940/41) as the first African-American singer in an all-white orchestra. However , she was discouraged by the humiliation of racial discrimination and she returned to New York City.

Lena Horne and Lennie Hayton , New York City, circa 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb

In 1941 she sang at the Café Society with Teddy Wilson ( Out of Nowhere ) . After half a year she moved to Los Angeles , where she sang "Little Troc" in the club. Eventually she got a contract with MGM , but was conditional on not having to play the usual roles for black actors such as housekeeping or similar. In Hollywood , Horne recorded the music for Cabin in the Sky . The song Ain't It the Truth , which she sang in the film, became a first hit for Lena Horne. She was the first African American woman to land a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. In 1943 she became famous for her appearance in the movie Stormy Weather ; the title song is another hit hit by Hornes. Stormy Weather was voted number 30 by the American Film Institute in their 2004 list of AFI's 100 Years… 100 Songs of the 100 Best American Film Songs . She was cut out in the southern versions of her films; She turned down offers to play the exotic Latina. She lost a role in the MGM version of Show Boat (1951) because multiracial relationships were still a taboo on screen.

After the Second World War she performed mainly in Great Britain , France and Belgium and remarried in Paris in 1947 . She returned briefly to the United States ; However, since she was considered a communist sympathizer there, she moved back to Europe, where she lived for the next seven years. In 1954 she got a recording contract with RCA , performed in nightclubs, hotels and on television. In 1957 she had a leading role on Broadway in the musical Jamaica by Harold Arlen and EY Harburg . In the 1960s, Horne became involved in the civil rights movement and published the article I Want to Be Myself . She also took part in Martin Luther King's march on Washington, DC and sang in the final speech of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was later murdered .

Arlen and Harburg wrote the song Silent Spring for them (based on the book Derstumme Frühling by Rachel Carson ), Jule Styne , Betty Comden and Adolph Green composed the song "Now" for Horne . In 1969 she appeared with Harry Belafonte at "Cesar's Palace" in Las Vegas , in the 1970s she toured Europe and the United States with Tony Bennett and performed at the "Minskoff Theater" on New York's Broadway. She had a brief appearance in 1978 as the fairy godmother Glinda in the film The Wiz - The Magic Land . The success of the show Lena Horne - The Lady and her Music in 1981 , which won a Grammy in 1982 and, for example , was a sign of its undying reputation . B. an appearance on Sesame Street , where she sang the song How Do You Do together with Grover (in German: Grobi) . In the 1990s, she appeared on the album Duets by Frank Sinatra with and released on Blue Note An Evening with Lena Horne . Her last album was in 1998 with Being Myself ; In 1999 she had her last public appearance on the occasion of an honor in the New York "Avery Fischer Hall". In 2000, when she retired from the stage, three songs appeared for a Duke Ellington tribute album Classic Ellington . She lived her last years in seclusion on the Upper East Side .

In addition to several Grammys , Horne received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989 for her life's work . Although she has performed almost exclusively with jazz musicians (including Artie Shaw and Teddy Wilson ), she is not usually referred to as a jazz singer because she never improvised ; however, she often made recordings with a strong jazz influence, such as Honeysuckle Rose with Benny Carter or Sometimes I'm Happy , The Lady Is a Tramp (1947). She is considered a classic interpreter of the jazz-oriented popular song material from the Great American Songbook .

Lena Horne, who was married to Lennie Hayton (1908–1971) and had two children, died on May 9, 2010 at the New York Presbyterian / Weill Cornell Medical Center. Tribute to Lena Horne was paid by Halle Berry at the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony on February 27, 2011.


“In my early days I was a sepia Hedy Lamarr . Now I'm black and a woman, singing my own way. "

- Lena Horne

"The whites never cared about what a great artist I am, they just cared about my looks."

- Lena Horne

Discography (selection)

  • Charlie Barnet: The Transscription Performances ( Hep , 1941)
  • Lena Horne with the Dixieland Jazz Group of NBC's Chamber Music of Lower Basin Street ( RCA )
  • Sidney Bechet: 1923–1936 ( Classics )
  • Billy Eckstine: Together (Spotlite, 1945)
  • Lionel Hampton: Vibebrations (Giants of Jazz, 1945)
  • Artie Shaw: 1940-1941 (Classics)
  • It's Love (RCA, 1955)
  • Porgy and Bess (with Harry Belafonte, RCA, 1959),
  • Songs by Burke and Van Heusen (RCA, 1959)
  • Lena on the Blue Side (RCA, 1962)
  • Lena Lovely & Alive (RCA, 1963) with Marty Paich Orchestra; Lena Sings Your Requests (1963), Lena Goes Latin (1963)
  • Here's Lena Now ( United Artists , 1964)
  • Lena Soul (1966)
  • Lena and Gabor (Skye, 1970)
  • Lena and Michel (RCA, 1975)
  • Lena, a New Album (RCA, 1976)
  • We'll Be Together Again ( Blue Note , 1994)
  • An Evening with Lena Horne (Blue Note, 1995)
  • Being Myself (Blue Note, 1998)



Web links

Commons : Lena Horne  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. AFI's 100 Years… 100 songs. (PDF; 134 kB) In: afi.com. American Film Institute (AFI), June 22, 2005, accessed August 28, 2015 .
  2. See Jonathan Fischer: Obituary, SZ of May 11, 2010.
  3. The Rough Guide Jazz says about her : "Her recordings are ... more jazzy than pure jazz, but the unique presence of her voice makes her a unique jazz singer."
  4. See Bloom, p. 72.
  5. Ken Bloom: The American Songbook - The Singers, the Songwriters, and the Songs. Black Dog & Leventhal, New York City 2005, ISBN 1-57912-448-8 .
  6. Quoted from Jonathan Fischer: Obituary, SZ from May 11, 2010.