Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Yahoo LAUNCHCAST Song Of The Day-Lena Horne
Album:Jazz Signatures: Trademark Tunes from The Golden Age of Jazz
If Hollywood stardom in the 1940s had been based solely on talent and charisma, Lena Horne would have been a superstar. But Lena was black and was not allowed to reach those heights. For most of her career, Lena has primarily been a nightclub singer who made occasional forays in other areas including recording and films. She was born June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY. Her parents divorced when she was three and her mother was on the road acting so she was raised by her paternal grandparents. Her grandmother was an early member of the NAACP. She also travelled with her mom for several years. She studied dance in high school and her mom got her an audition at The Cotton Club and Lena was hired at age 16. She started taking singing lessons and left The Cotton Club in 1935 to sing with Noble Sissle's band and made her recording debut in 1936. Lena married and had two children and lived in Pittsburgh. She divorced him and moved to New York to relaunch her career. She joined Charlie Barnet's band in 1941 but the racial discrimination she suffered by being a black singer in a white band forced her to quit. Lena signed with RCA/Bluebird in 1941 and one of her recordings was Stormy Weather. While headlining at a club in Los Angeles in 1942, she started getting film offers and signed with MGM. But MGM never seemed to know what to do with her and over the next decade, she mostly sang without a speaking role. The 1943 film Stormy Weather was actually made at 2oth Century Fox. That's right. MGM loaned her out. Stormy Weather is on this various artists comp that is perfect for beginners. Lena continued to perform in the 40s and married MGM music arranger Lennie Hayton in 1948. He was white so they kept the marriage secret for two years. Then she was blacklisted as a Communist because she had performed with Paul Robeson. She continued to perform in Europe but was cleared in 1955. Lena Horne continued to perform in nightclubs for decades. Her 1981 Broadway show Lena Horne: The Lady & Her Music and the original cast album were huge hits and won two Grammys. Lena Horne is retired now but her CD Seasons Of A Life was released by Blue Note in 2006. If you've only heard the name Lena Horne and never seen this legend in her prime, you need to check out this clip of her performing Stormy Weather in the 1943 film Stormy Weather.