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Birth name: Lena Mary Calhoun Horne.
Born: June 30, 1917 Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Lena Horne biography (bio):
Lena Mary Calhoun Horne is a popular singer of African-American descent. She has recorded and performed extensively with jazz musicians (notably Artie Shaw, Teddy Wilson), Billy Strayhorn, and Duke Ellington. She currently lives in New York City and no longer makes public appearances (JET, April 2007). She might be best-known for her version of the song "Stormy Weather", which was a hit in the 1940s.

Early career:
Lena Horne was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1917 and grew up in an upper middle class black bourgeois community. Her father, Edwin "Teddy" Horne, who worked in the gambling trade, left the family when Lena was three. Her mother, Edna Scottron, was the daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron; she was an actress with an African American theater troupe and traveled extensively. Horne was mainly raised by her grandparents, Cora Calhoun and Edwin Horne.
After a false start headlining a 1938 musical race movie called The Duke is Tops, Horne became the first African American performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio, namely Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She made her debut with MGM in 1942's Panama Hattie and became famous in 1943 for her rendition of Stormy Weather in the movie of the same name (which she made while on loan to 20th Century Fox from MGM).
She appeared in a number of MGM musicals, most notably Cabin in the Sky (also 1943), but was never featured in a leading role due to her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be reedited for showing in southern states where theatres could not show films with African American performers. As a result, most of Horne's film appearances were standalone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline; a notable exception was the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, though even then one of her numbers had to be cut because it was considered too suggestive by the censors. In ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, 1946, she does a wonderful segment singing LOVE by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.
Stormy Weather did feature Horne in a major acting role, with a more substantial part than what she had in Cabin in the Sky, but as noted, this was not an MGM musical. She was originally considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of Show Boat (having already played the role when a segment of Show Boat was performed in Till the Clouds Roll By) but Ava Gardner was given the role instead (the production code office had banned interracial relationships in films). In the documentary That's Entertainment! III Horne stated that MGM executives required Gardner to practice her singing using recordings of Horne performing the songs, which offended both Horne and Gardner (ultimately, Gardner ended up having her singing voice overdubbed by another actress for the threatrical release, though her own voice was heard on the soundtrack album).

Changes of direction:
Disenchanted with Hollywood by the mid-1950s, and increasingly focused on her nightclub career, she only made two major appearances in MGM films during the decade, 1950's Duchess of Idaho (which was also Eleanor Powell's film swan song), and the 1956 musical Meet Me in Las Vegas. However it is important to point out also that, according to a PBS documentary, she was blacklisted during the 1950s for her political views. She returned to the screen three more times, playing chanteuse Claire Quintana in the 1969 film Death of a Gunfighter, Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz (1978), which helped her to be known to a much younger audience, with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, and co-hosting the aforementioned 1994 MGM retrospective That's Entertainment! III in which she was candid about her treatment by the studio. In her later years, Horne also made occasional television appearances - generally as herself - on such programs as The Muppet Show (where she sang with Kermit the Frog) and Sanford and Son in the 1970s, as well as a 1985 performance on The Cosby Show and a 1993 appearance on A Different World.
She appeared in Broadway musicals several times and in 1958 was nominated for the Tony Award for "Best Actress in a Musical" (for her part in the "Calypso" musical Jamaica) In 1981 she received a Special Tony Award for her one-woman show, Lena Horne: "The Lady and Her Music". Despite the show's considerable success (Horne still holds the record for the longest-running solo performance in Broadway history), she was not inclined to capitalize on the renewed interest in her career by undertaking many new musical projects. A proposed 1983 joint recording project between Horne and Frank Sinatra (to be produced by Quincy Jones) was ultimately abandoned, and her sole studio recording of the decade was 1988's The Men In My Life, featuring sentimental duets with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joe Williams. In 1989, she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The 1990s found Horne considerably more active in the recording studio - all the more remarkable considering she was approaching her 80th year. Following her triumphant 1993 performance at a tribute to the musical legacy of her good friend, Billy Strayhorn (Duke Ellington's longtime pianist and arranger), she decided to record an album largely comprised of Strayhorn's and Ellington's songs the following year, 1994's We'll Be Together Again. To coincide with the release of the album, Horne made what would be her final concert performances at New York's Supper Club and Carnegie Hall. That same year, Horne also lent her vocals to a recording of "Embraceable You" on Frank Sinatra's "Duets II" album. Though the album was largely derided by the critics, the poignant Sinatra-Horne pairing was generally regarded as its highlight. In 1995, a "live" album capturing her Supper Club performance was released (subsequently winning a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album). In 1998, at the age of 81, Horne released another studio album, entitled Being Myself. Thereafter, Horne essentially retired from performing (and largely retreated from public view), though she did return to the recording studio in 2000 to contribute vocal tracks on Simon Rattle's "Classic Ellington" album.

Civil Rights activism:
Horne is also noteworthy for her lifelong contribution to the Civil Rights movement. In the 1940s, she performed at Cafe Society and spent time working with lifelong friend Paul Robeson, another singer who was involved in work against racial discrimination. During World War II, when entertaining the troops at her own expense, she refused to perform "for segregated audiences or to groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen" according to her Kennedy Center bio. But she became more well-known during the Civil Rights movement, attending the March on Washington of 1963, and speaking and performing on behalf of the NAACP and the National Council for Negro Women. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Tributes and re-releases:
In 2003, ABC announced that Janet Jackson would star as Horne in a television biopic (after it was rumored for years that Whitney Houston would take the job). In the weeks following Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" debacle during the 2004 Super Bowl, however, Variety reported that Horne demanded Jackson be dropped from the project. "ABC executives resisted Hornes demand," according to the Associated Press report, "but Jackson representatives told the trade newspaper that she left willingly after Horne and her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, asked that she not take part." Oprah Winfrey stated to Alicia Keys during a 2005 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show that she might possibly consider producing the biopic herself, casting Keys as Horne.
In January 2005, Blue Note Records, her label for more than a decade, announced that "the finishing touches have been put on a collection of rare and unreleased recordings by the legendary Horne made during her time on Blue Note. Remixed by her longtime producer Rodney Jones, the recordings featured Horne in remarkably secure voice for a woman of her years, and include versions of such signature songs as 'Something To Live For', 'Chelsea Bridge' and 'Stormy Weather'." The album, originally titled Soul but renamed Seasons of a Life, was finally released on January 24, 2006.

Personal life:
Lena Horne's second marriage was to Lennie Hayton, a Jewish American, from 1947 until his death in 1971. Hayton was one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM. In her as-told-to autobiography Lena by Richard Schickel, Horne recounts the enormous pressures she and her husband faced as an interracial married couple. However, she later admitted (Ebony, May 1980) that she really married Hayton to advance her career and cross the "color-line" in show business. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
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