Beautifully engraved certificate from the Lena Horne Beauty Inc.
in 1960. This historic document was printed by the Columbian Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of an eagle. This item is hand signed by the Company’s President and Secretary and is
over 60 years old.
From Brooklyn, New York, Lena Horne was raised by her mother, an actress. Her grandmother was an activist who took Lena to the NAACP, the Urban League and the Ethical Culture Society.
At age 16 Lena began working at Harlem's Cotton Club, first as a dancer, then in the chorus and later as a solo singer. She began singing with orchestras, and, while singing with Charlie Barnet's (white) orchestra, she was discovered. From there she began playing clubs in Greenwich Village and then performed at Carnegie Hall.
Beginning in 1942 she appeared in films, broadening her career to include movies, Broadway and recordings. She has been honored with many awards for her lifetime of success.
Horne was married to Louis J. Jones from 1937 to 1944; they had two children. Later she married Lennie Hayton, from 1947 to his death in 1971.
Her signature song, from a 1943 film of the same name, is "Stormy Weather."
Lena Mary Calhoun Horne (June 30, 1917 – May 9, 2010) was an American singer, actress and dancer.
Horne joined the mike chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of sixteen and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood where she had small parts in numerous movies, and more substantial parts in the films Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather. Due to the Red Scare and her progressive political views, Horne found herself blacklisted and unable to get work in Hollywood.
Returning to her roots as a nightclub performer, Horne took part in the March on Washington in August 1963, and continued to work as a performer, both in nightclubs as well as television, and releasing well received albums. Horne announced her retirement in March 1980, but the next year starred in a one woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which ran for more than three hundred performances on Broadway, and earned her numerous awards and accolades, and she would continue recording and performing sporadically into the 1990's.
Horne was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Reported to be descended from the John C. Calhoun family, both sides of her family were a mixture of African, European, and Native American descent. Each side belonged to what W. E. B. Du Bois called "The Talented Tenth," the upper stratum of middle-class, well-educated blacks. She grew up in an upper-middle-class black community in the Hill District community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her father, Edwin "Teddy" Horne (died 1970), a numbers kingpin in the gambling trade, left the family when she was three. Her mother, Edna Scottron, daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron, was an actress with an black theater troupe and traveled extensively.
Horne was mainly raised by her grandparents, Cora Calhoun and Edwin Horne at 189 Chauncey Street in Brooklyn. Her uncle, Frank S. Horne, was an adviser to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the dean of students at Fort Valley Junior Industrial Institute in Fort Valley GA. She attended Washington High School in Atlanta, where her grandmother convinced her to join the NAACP. Horne also attended Girls High School, an all-girls public high school in Brooklyn, which has since become Boys and Girls High School, on Fulton Street; she dropped out without earning a diploma.
In the fall of 1933, Horne joined the chorus line of the Cotton Club in New York City. In the spring of 1934, she had a featured role in the Cotton Club Parade. A few years later she joined Noble Sissle's Orchestra, with which she toured. After she separated from her first husband, Horne toured with bandleader Charlie Barnet in 1940–41, but disliked the travel and left the band to work at the Café Society in New York. She replaced Dinah Shore as the featured vocalist on NBC's popular jazz series The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street. The show's resident maestros, Henry Levine and Paul Laval, recorded with Horne in June 1941 for RCA Victor. Horne left the show after only six months to headline a nightclub revue on the west coast; she was replaced by Linda Keene.
Lena Horne photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1941Horne already had two low-budget movies to her credit: a 1938 musical feature called The Duke is Tops (later reissued with Horne's name above the title as The Bronze Venus); and a 1941 two-reel short subject, Boogie Woogie Dream, featuring pianists Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons. Horne's songs from Boogie Woogie Dream were later released individually as soundies. Horne was primarily a nightclub performer during this period, and it was during a 1943 club engagement in Hollywood that talent scouts approached Horne to work in pictures. She chose Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the most prestigious studio in the world, and became the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio.
She made her debut with MGM in 1942's Panama Hattie, and performed the title song of Stormy Weather (1943), which she made at 20th Century Fox, on loan 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 because of her ethnicity and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers. As a result, most of Horne's film appearances were stand-alone 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. "Ain't it the Truth" was the song (and scene) cut before the release of the film Cabin in the Sky. It featured Horne singing "Ain't it the Truth," while taking a bubble bath (considered too "risqué" by the film's executives). This scene and song are featured in the film That's Entertainment! III (1994) which also featured commentary from Horne on why the scene was deleted prior to the film's release.
In Ziegfeld Follies (1946) she performs "Love" by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.
Horne wanted to be 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 lost the part to Ava Gardner due to the Production Code's ban on interracial relationships in films. In the documentary That's Entertainment! III Horne stated that MGM executives required Gardner to practice her singing using Horne's recordings, which offended both actresses. Ultimately, Gardner's voice was overdubbed by actress Annette Warren (Smith) for the theatrical release, though her voice was heard on the soundtrack album.
By the mid-1950s, Horne was disenchanted with Hollywood 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. 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 in The Wiz (1978), and co-hosting the 1994 MGM retrospective That's Entertainment! III, in which she was candid about her treatment by the studio.
After leaving Hollywood, Horne established herself as one of the premiere nightclub performers of the post-war era. She headlined at clubs and hotels throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe, including the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. In 1957, a live album entitled, Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria, became the largest selling record by a female artist in the history of the RCA-Victor label. In 1958, Horne was nominated for a Tony Award for "Best Actress in a Musical" (for her part in the "Calypso" musical Jamaica).
From the late 1950s through the 1960s, Horne was a staple of TV variety shows, appearing multiple times on Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show and The Bell Telephone Hour. Other programs included The Judy Garland Show, The Hollywood Palace and The Andy Williams Show. Besides two television specials for the BBC (later syndicated in the U.S.), Horne starred in her own U.S. television special in 1969, Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne. During this decade, the artist Pete Hawley painted her portrait for RCA Victor, capturing the mood of her performance style.
In 1970, she co-starred with Harry Belafonte in the hour long Harry & Lena for ABC; in 1973, she co-starred with Tony Bennett in Tony and Lena. Horne and Bennett subsequently toured the U.S. and U.K. in a show together. A very memorable appearance was in the 1976 program America Salutes Richard Rodgers, where she sang a lengthy medley of Rodgers songs with Peggy Lee and Vic Damone. Horne also made several appearances on The Flip Wilson Show.
Additionally, Horne played herself on television programs such as The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, 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.
In the summer of 1980, Horne, 63 years old and intent on retiring from show business, embarked on a two month series of benefit concerts sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta. These concerts were represented as Horne's farewell tour, yet her retirement lasted less than a year.
In May 1981, The Nederlander Organization, Michael Frazier and Fred Walker booked Horne for a four week engagement at the newly named Nederlander Theatre (formerly the Trafalgar, the Billy Rose and the National) on West 41st Street in New York City. The show was an instant success and was extended to a full year run, garnering Horne a special Tony award, and two Grammy Awards for the cast recording of her show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. The 333 performance Broadway run closed on Horne's 65th birthday, June 30, 1982. Later that same week, the entire show was performed again and videotaped for television broadcast and home video release. The tour began a few days later at Tanglewood (Massachusetts) during the July 4, 1982 weekend. The Lady and Her Music toured 41 cities in the U.S. and Canada through June 17, 1984. It played in London for a month in August and ended its run in Stockholm, Sweden, September 14, 1984.
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 did not 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 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 1993 performance at a tribute to the musical legacy of her good friend Billy Strayhorn (Duke Ellington's longtime collaborator), she decided to record an album composed largely of Strayhorn's and Ellington's songs the following year, 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 Sinatra's Duets II album. Though the album was largely derided by critics, the 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.
Horne was long involved with the Civil Rights movement. In 1941, she sang at Cafe Society and worked with Paul Robeson, a singer who also combated American racial discrimination. During World War II, when entertaining the troops for the USO, she refused to perform "for segregated audiences or for groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen", according to her Kennedy Center biography. Since the US Army refused to allow integrated audiences, she wound up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black US soldiers and white German POWs. She was at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, the weekend before Evers was assassinated. She also met President John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated. She was at the March on Washington and spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC and the National Council of Negro Women. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. She was a member of the prominent organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
In 2003, ABC announced that Janet Jackson would star as Horne in a television biopic. 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 Horne's 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 released on January 24, 2006.
In 2007, Horne was portrayed by Leslie Uggams as the older Lena and Nikki Crawford as the younger Lena in the stage musical Stormy Weather staged at the Pasadena Playhouse in California (January through March 2009).
Horne married Louis Jordan Jones in January 1937 and lived in Pittsburgh. In December 1937 they had a daughter, Gail, and a son, Edwin (February 1940 - 1970), who died of kidney disease. Horne and Jones separated in 1940 and divorced in 1944.
Horne's second marriage was to Lennie Hayton, a Jewish American and one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM, in December 1947. They separated in the early 1960s, but never divorced; he died in 1971. 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. She later admitted in a 1980 Ebony interview she had married Hayton to advance her career and cross the "color-line" in show business.
Horne was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
Screenwriter Jenny Lumet, known for her award-winning screenplay Rachel Getting Married, is Horne's granddaughter, the daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet and Horne's daughter Gail.
Horne died on May 9, 2010, at the age of 92, at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
Lena Horne Grammy Award History Year Category Title Genre Label Result
1995 Best Jazz Vocal Performance An Evening with Lena Horne Jazz Blue Note Winner
1989 Lifetime Achievement Awards Winner
1988 Best Jazz Vocal Performance – Female The Men in My Life Jazz Three Cherries Nominee
1988 Best Jazz Vocal Performance – Duo or Group "I Won't Leave You Again" Jazz Three Cherries Nominee
1981 Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music Pop Qwest Winner
1981 Best Cast Show Album Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music Pop Qwest Winner
1962 Best Female Vocal Performance Porgy and Bess Pop RCA Nominee
1961 Female Solo Vocal Performance Lena at the Sands Pop RCA Nominee
Year Organization Category Result Notes
2006 Martin Luther King, Jr.
National Historic Site International Civil Rights
Walk of Fame Inducted
1999 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Jazz Artist Winner
1994 Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award Songwriters Hall of Fame Winner
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Hollywood Walk of Fame Star at 6282 Hollywood Blvd Honor (motion pictures)
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Hollywood Walk of Fame Star at 6250 Hollywood
Blvd Honor (recordings)
1987 American Society of Composers,
Authors and Publishers The ASCAP Pied Piper Award Winner Given to entertainers who have made significant contributions to words and music
1985 Emmy Award Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music Nominee
1984 John F. Kennedy Center for
the Performing Arts Kennedy Center Honors Winner For extraordinary talent, creativity, and perseverance
1980 Howard University Honorary doctorate Honored
1980 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actress – Musical Winner Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music
1980 New York Drama Critics Circle Awards Special Citation Winner Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music
1957 Tony Awards Best Actress Nominee "Jamaica"
History from OldCompany.com
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