Just a Few Early Morning Thoughts
It’s been a couple of years now since hearing about the passing of legendary singer Lena Horne. Not much in on television news. She died on Mother’s Day Amy 9, 2010. Fitting, for she was indeed one of those nurturing souls who many young women singers in mid-twentieth century America aspired to become. Internet response, however, buzzed with articles about her legacy that spoke to her respect as an entertainment community elder.
Lena Horne’s career spanned several decades and resulted in landmark achievements for African American women “song stylists” as I like to call those gifted vocalist-whether pop or classical-whose phrasing and emotional commitment to the totality of their songs transcends time. CBS gave her a short video tribute:
“Remembering Lena Horne” z2DJ0gjiuyI
Her life was not without controversy. She did not tolerate bigotry. She barely tolerated being relegated to “the colored girl with the voice” specialty film cameos. Lena also paid a steep price for loyalty to friends, especially her friendship with Paul Robeson: http://milwaukeecourieronline.com/index.php/2010/05/15/a-tribute-biography-of-lena-horne/
Thinking back awhile, whenever Lena appeared on TV in the sixties, her performances became sophisticated celebrations of coded resistance, resilience blended with grace and poise. I would sit close to the television, dreaming, hoping that someday I would be like her on stage.
Lena was the model of beauty, poise, grace, and sometimes outspoken truth in a sea of polite socio-political denial. In an age when performers over fifty began to take stage and declare,”I am still here with lots to do and say.” She used her talent speak volumes that many would not hear.
She toured in a small show during the eighties. San Diego was on the itinerary. Lena Horne, on stage here, in San Diego. During the performance we cheered, clapped, cried. My friends kept asking,”How old did you say she is?” Every time I repeated her age, they’d say, “NOooooo. Really? NOOooooo.” We talked about that evening for weeks. . .
Today, whether presenting, hosting, or performing at jazz jams, poetry readings, film screenings, street fairs, gospel fests, or panel discussions… I aspire to shine a slight shimmer of her inner beauty, aesthetic values, and love of the arts to audiences where ever I perform. Her soul flamed brilliantly in the midst of darkness to blaze against the cultural night surrounding her and others whose artistry built bridges on which so many of us now “dance.”
Lena, your life-courage continues to inspire creative hearts to believe, to dare think of humanity’s agape potential.
Delores Fisher, Musewoman