Lena Horne


Lena Horne was a singer, actress and Civil Rights Activist who first established herself as an accomplished live singer and then transitioned into film work. She signed with MGM studios and became known as one of the top African American performers of her time, seen in such films as Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather. She was also known for her work with civil rights groups and refused to play roles that stereotyped African American women, a stance that many found controversial. After some time out of the limelight during the '70s, she made a revered, award-winning comeback with her 1981 show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. 

She was born on June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of a banker/professional gambler and an actress. Both parents had a mixed heritage of African American, European American and Native American descent. Her parents separated when she was three, and because her mother traveled as part of various theatre troupes, Horne lived with her grandparents for a time. Later, she alternately accompanied her mother on the road and stayed with family and friends around the country.

She became a musical force when it came to her singing career, as seen with albums like It's Love (1955) and Stormy Weather (1957), whilst remaining active in the Civil Rights Movement, and she participated in the 1963 March on Washington. During this era, she also released albums like Feelin' Good (1965) and Lena in Hollywood (1966). 

Here's a stunning performance of Story Weather from 1943.