It’s amazing to think that Lena Horne, star of the stage and screen, was born in 1917 just a handful of blocks away from where I live now. The late, great jazz singer passed away on Sunday evening in New York City at the age of 92.
Horne started her career young, joining the chorus line at famed speakeasy the Cotton Club when she was just 16. Her vocal talents landed her a starring role in “Cabin in the Sky,” the Hollywood debut for noted filmmaker Vincente Minnelli, an effort which is all the more notable for its use — in 1943 — of an all-African American cast. Horne’s politics led to her being blacklisted in the 1950s.
I know Horne best for a short film her music is featured in. In 1964, Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez cut a five minute political film called “Now,” a montage of Civil Rights-era photos and newsclips set to the sound of Horne singing the titular song as a call to arms for those who would stand against injustice. You can see the whole short below:
I first saw “Now” in college and its stuck with me ever since, to the point that I keep a copy of it on my phone at all times. Horne made plenty of other contributions in entertainment’s long history, but this is my most personal memory of her, so I thought it fitting to share “Now” here with you today. Enjoy.
R.I.P. Lena… you will be missed.