In Memoriam: Lena Horne (1917-2010)

No one could put a finger on Lena Horne. Was she a groundbreaking black entertainer, refusing to play mammies and maids, demanding to be accepted into the social worlds where she entertained? Was she a beautiful woman who made herself famous by demanding attention and being beautiful? Was she a civil rights pioneer, blacklisted for her refusal to submit to the norms of the time? Was she a great singing talent, overshadowed by her own looks? Was she an unrepentant social climber, even marrying to get access to the white world of privilege?

Yes, and maybe yes, and maybe no, but who really knows. What person is truly so simple? Read the things that have been written since she died. Most of it says “incomparable singer and civil rights activist”.  I have a feeling she was much more complicated, and much more interesting.

What can we say for sure? She was beautiful. And full of fire. And when she sings, something about all of her pulls me in. Never have I heard a rendition of “Moaning Low” like hers. She makes me believe. Ohh, she makes me BELIEVE.


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