What first comes to mind when I think of Lena Horne I think of her singing primarily, but the song is not is not “Stormy Weather.” but rather a Sanka jingle from the 1980’s.
The second thing that comes to mind when I think of Ms. Horne is the 5th grade. As part of Black History Month, our teacher had each of us do a project – we had to pick a famous African American and create a presentation to give in front of the class. The twist was that we had to deliver the presentation in the form of a biography in the first person. In other words we had to take on the persona of our selected historical figure and tell our classmates about our lives – costumes included. I of course chose Lena Horne.
In doing research about her life and work, I discovered that she was a trailblazer in terms of her contribution to the music and film and film industry. Her career definitely paved the way first, for performers such as Dorothy Dandridge in the 1950’s, and many of our contemporary artists (the list is too numerous to name here). I also realized that her work extended beyond mere entertainment.
As an adult I learned to appreciate her in a way that my eleven year old mind could not possibly fathom. She was a principled woman who, in some aspects of her life and career could have probably taken an easier route. But instead she stood her ground in spite of the consequences. Obviously in the outpouring of reflections of appreciation that came with her passing she was admired for who she was and her impact is not forgotten.
In closing, here is a sample recording (from iTunes) which I have had on my iPod for some time; she originally sang it in the film, Till the Clouds Roll By. It is from the musical Showboat. It would be the only time she would be able to sing the song of the character Julie; several years later, Ms. Horne lobbied to play Julie in the remake of Showboat but lost out on the role to Ava Gardner, who was dubbed in the final cut of the film.