"So many of us grew up knowing Lena Horne," I said to my wife Bridgett earlier tonight. "Several generations grew up on Lena Horne," she replied. She was 92 years old when she passed away yesterday. Pretty incredible, right?
Here's a quick sample of some of the writing that's been done about her today.
First, Thembisa Mshaka, journalist and author of Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business, wrote this:
Groundbreaking actor, dancer, and vocal stylist Lena Horne made her
transition at the age of 92. Lena Horne, with her smoldering voice,
lithe dancer’s body, and flawless beauty, is the Mother of Black
Hollywood: its glamour; its contradictions, its fighting spirit. Before
Dorothy Dandridge, Lonnette McKee, Vanessa Williams, Halle Berry, or
Paula Patton, there was Lena. If you are a woman of color in the
business, and you elect to pursue a living performing on stage, using a
microphone or appearing before a camera, you owe a debt of thanks to
Sundance fellow and author of Blood Beats, Vols 1 and 2, Ernest Hardy, wrote the following:
When I was a child her beauty grabbed me first, but there was so much
more… that extraordinarily regal bearing, which never broke; the fire
in her eyes that let you know there was a real fighter behind that
classically gorgeous face; the earthy, frank humor which dispelled the
"goddess" mystique in which her countenance and her own rich, layered
history (personal and professional) shrouded her. But it was her vast
reality and the courage and class with which she lived it that made me a
lifelong fan, and made her relevant beyond nostalgic longing. Her
struggles in Hollywood and her principled stands against racism in the
entertainment industry, in the military (she was an early challenger to
the rules of segregation that were in effect when celebrities performed
for the military in the '40s), and in America at large made her a
heroine and cultural icon for Black folks even though her film career
was a clear example of the race-based glass ceiling at work. We had
great pride in her because she was talented and tenacious… But also
because she was loud and clear about the pride she had in us, long
before such pride was publicly fashionable. She was tough. Fearless.
Legendary. Her death hits hard.
And the NY Times obituary, written by Aljean Harmetz, is here.
Her classic, Stormy Weather: