Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lena Horne: Barrier-breaking jazz star, actress

(AP) — Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress [was] known for her plaintive signature song Stormy Weather and for her triumph over the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialise with them.

Horne died Sunday, May 9th at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Horne, whose striking beauty and magnetic sex appeal often overshadowed her sultry voice, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success.

"I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept," she once said. "I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked."

"I knew her from the time I was born, and whenever I needed anything she was there," actress Liza Minnelli said belatedly. She was funny, sophisticated and truly one of a kind. We lost an original. Thank you Lena."

In the 1960s Horne was one of the most visible celebrities in the civil rights movement, once throwing a lamp at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant and in 1963 joining 250,000 others in the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr gave his I Have a Dream speech.

In the 2009 biography, Stormy Weather, author James Gavin recounts that when Horne was asked by a lover why she'd married a white man, she replied: "To get even with him."

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