Lena Horne: Jazz Legend

Lena Horne is one of the most popular African-American jazz legend singers. She was born in 1917 Lena Mary Calhoun Horne in New York City. She performed with the greatest jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw. She lives in New York City today and does not appear in the public eye anymore. Lena is most famous for the movie Stormy Weather, in which she sung the title song, in the 1940’s. Contrary to how music careers usually begin, Lena grew up in an elite family. She lived in a black bourgeois area in Brooklyn, New York.

Her father Edwin Horne left them when she was three-years-old. Her mother Edna Scottron, daughter of an inventor, was an actress with a black theater group and traveled a lot. Lena’s grandparents raised her. Though, she was said to have been a part of the Black elite, racial discrimination still existed. Lena Horne and her friend Paul Robeson embarked on a lifelong effort to fight for Civil Rights.

In fact, she took the civil rights movement so seriously to the point of rejecting the offer to perform to a segregated audience or to an audience where the black people were there only to serve white people. Lena Horne was apart of the March on Washington just for the purpose of receiving well-deserved treatment equal to the privileged white people. In addition, Lena Horne committed herself to speaking along with performing for the NAACP, National Council For Negro Women and to assist former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in passing the anti-lynching law in America’s Congress.

Even with all those serious concerns she still found time to become one of the most memorable Jazz singers in history. She performed at the café society, a club imitating the European cabarets to show the talent of undiscovered African American which led to the success of Lena Horne, Paul Robeson, Big Joe Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, Lester Young, Hazel Scott, Sarah Vaughn, Josh White, Pete Johnson and Mary Lou Williams.

From 1947 to 1971 Lena Horne remarried again to a Jewish man Lennie Hayton a musical conductor and arranger for MGM studios later to admit in her autobiography titled “Lena” by author Richard Schickel that she married him to help her career. Nevertheless, the interracial couple as always had to face pressures same race couples do not, but she stayed with him until he passed away. Lena Horne was in several Broadway musicals, and won a 1958 award for her performance in the calypso titled “Jamaica”. Lena Horne won a Tony Award For her one woman show titled “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music”.

In her success, she has to her credit one of the longest solo performances in history to run more than the usual record time. Lena Horne in great modesty did not accept a lot of musical projects, yet agreed upon a recording with Frank Sinatra and Quincy Jones as producer which did not happen. However, Lena Horne worked on a solo recording that featured duets with Sammy Davis, and Joe Williams titled “The Men In My Life” in the year 1988. The next year she won a Grammy Life Time Achievement Award to add to her list of credits of success she mastered in her career. In her eighties she continued to record albums titled 1994 “We’ll Be Together Again”, 1995 Live album that won her a Grammy for the Best Vocal Jazz Album. 1998″Being Myself”. Finally, she had the chance to sing on an album with Frank Sinatra to the song “Embraceable You”.

In 2000 she recorded another album to lend her voice to a “Classic Ellington” recording. Lena Horne is a member of the sorority Delta Sigma Theta and has been on the label Blue Note Records since 1995.

In 2005 ,Oprah Winfrey stated that she may to ask singer/musician Alicia Keys to play the part of Lena Horne in a movie.