Friday, 30 June 2017

The blues walked in and met me

"My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman, I'm not alone, I'm free. I no longer have to be a credit, I don't have to be a symbol to anybody, I don't have to be a first to anybody. 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."

Another day, another centenary to celebrate!

Today - following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Jane Wyman, Desi Arnaz, Helen Forrest, Hans Conreid, Dame Vera Lynn, Frankie Howerd and of course, her compatriot Ella Fitzgerald - it is the turn of Miss Lena Horne...

Not content with being sidelined as a black performer and actress throughout the tumultuous and decidedly bigoted early 20th century in the USA, Miss Horne (inspired by her grandmother, who was an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP)) resisted the "colour bar" that threatened to block her career, and instead forged her own pioneering place in the limelight.

She was the first black woman to land a leading-lady contract in Hollywood, she refused to play to segregated audiences throughout the War and beyond, and emerged as one of America's foremost cabaret artistes and popular entertainers - eventually gaining accolades as a jazz singer. Like many of her contemporaries, she was actively involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and remained a vocal supporter of equality throughout her career.

She remains one of our all-time favourite vocalists, not least for her sublime renditions of such classics as Honeysuckle Rose, I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good, Old Devil Moon and myriad others. But of course, here's her "theme song", the one for which she will always be remembered - Stormy Weather:

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne (30th June 1917 - 9th May 2010)


  1. I LOVE her voice and can always recognize her phrasing. she was a beautiful elegant woman.

    1. There was no-one else who could do what she did with that voice! As with Ella, as with Billie - she was unique. Jx

  2. Too faboo! I saw her in concert in 1982, she was fantastic!

  3. I was first captivated by Miss Horne when I saw her sing 'Honey Suckle Rose' in 'That's Entertainment' as a very little kid. I honestly thought she was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen (it's also where I discovered that Judy Garland was more than Dorothy Gale...but that's a whole other story!). It was years until I took a deep dive in the Lena pond and learned more about the Lady & Her Music. I do believe however that very first glimpse of her way back when was formative. An amazing artist and trailblazer. Fascinating! Happy 100th!!!

    1. She was indeed an enduring influence on many generations of gay boys... Jx


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