Lena Horne

Widely recognised as a genuine jazz great, Lena Horne's sultry singing - allied to a strong social conscience as a civil rights campaigner - made her a key figure at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem, while revered in Hollywood too. An Afro-American with family roots both in Europe and Native America, her early influences were the great jazz artists Billy Strayhorn and Billy Eckstine, who she saw while living in Pittsburgh. Moving to New York, she got herself a job in the chorus line at the Cotton Club and within a year she was given a starring role alongside her mentor Adelaide Hall. This led to her joining the Noble Sissle Orchestra, with whom she made her first recordings for Decca before she teamed up with Charlie Barnet and then replaced Dinah Shore as featured singer on an important jazz radio show on NBC. Her popularity grew through recordings with RCA Victor which led to roles in a series of films in Hollywood, including 'Stormy Weather', a movie based on the life of Adelaide Hall, the title song of which gave Horne one of her biggest hits. Through the 1940s she went on to star in other high profile movies, such as 'Cabin in the Sky' and 'Ziegfeld Follies', but lost the part she was earmarked for in 'Showboat' because of - Horne always claimed - corporate disapproval of inter-racial relations. It hardened her political resolve and America's paranoia about the rise of communism and the subsequent 'reds under the bed' investigation into the entertainment industry resulted in her being blacklisted throughout much of the 1950s. She returned, however, to become one of the world's top night club and cabaret performers and became a regular at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and Coconut Grove in Los Angeles as well as a regular on TV variety shows. She performed with Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett, duetted with Frank Sinatra on 'Embraceable You' and won a variety of awards for her touring show 'Lena Horne: The Lady & Her Music' in the early 1980s. A Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, she died in 2010 when many stars came to pay their respects, including Dionne Warwick; Liza Minnelli, Jessye Norman and Lauren Bacall.

Related Artists

Stations Featuring Lena Horne

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.