Jazz great Lena Horne, who died Sunday at age 92, was remembered by hundreds of mourners at New York’s St. Ignatius Loyola church on Friday (May 14).
At the funeral — attended by Vanessa Williams, former Mayor David Dinkins and her grandaughter, actress Jenny Lumet — Horne was remembered by those who knew her as a girl from Brooklyn who became a world-renowned singer and actress and, in the process, lent her voice to those oppressed by decades of racism. But she was also so much more.
“[She] was so many ideas existing all at the same time, in the same space, and they were all conflicting, and they were all true,” Lumet said, according to reports. “I’ve tried to sum her up and I can’t. … Summing up really means it’s over, and I think she’s not over and that she’s quite infinite.”
Horne’s paternal grandparents were early members of the NAACP civil-rights organization, and in a precursor to her lifelong battle on behalf of equal rights, she was the cover girl for the organization’s monthly bulletin in October 1919, when she was just 2 years old. She would go on to sing at Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club, appear in Broadway productions and star in Hollywood films, though she would often refuse to play roles that portrayed blacks in subservient positions, which limited her appearances.
By the 1940s, she was the top-earning black performer in Hollywood, playing lucrative nightclub gigs and gaining popularity among black and white G.I.’s during World War II. Horne’s sultry voice would go on to dazzle fans for decades on hits like “My Blue Heaven” and “Stormy Weather.”
Upon learning of her death, a whole new generation of artists — including Alicia Keys, Diddy and Monica — remembered Horne as a pioneer and a prodigious talent, one the world would probably never see the likes of again.
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