Monday, May 10, 2010
This morning I was greeted by the sad news that the great Lena Horne died yesterday, May 9, 2010 at the age of 92 in New York City. She was born in Brooklyn on June 30, 1917 and was aclaimed not only for her talent, but also for her role as an active member of the civil rights movement.
In reading over her obituaries, so much ink is given to her role in breaking barriers in the olden days of entertainment - and she certainly did a great deal. I recalled Halle Berry giving Lena Horne credit when she won the Oscar in 2001. And I am happy to give Lena Horne HUGE credit for all the hardships she endured in those days. Part of what made Lena Horne amazing was her tireless work for justice and equal rights. But I grew up as a child in the 1960s and anyone with an education was pretty aware that racism was just stupid. Yes, I know pockets of racism remain, but it is far removed from my universe. My problem is with racists, not people with a different skin color or culture than me.
What I will always remember about Lena was how she could sing a song. I will never ever forgot - WOW, Lena Horne could sing like an angel. So, allow me to write about how great a singer she was. About how her heart just overflowed and burst on every note. She was THAT good.
I heard her perform as a young boy at a place called Melody Top in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Melody Top was a giant tent at a place called the Schlitz Pavillion. The sound system was very good for its day and because it was a huge tent, and a singer could sing without all the room reflections creating a gargle of echos that made it difficult to hear. And as a young kid of maybe 9 or 10 - I was able to just listen to her sing without all the back story of racial tensions, breaking barriers, and civil rights. As I think back about it - how lucky I was to have this opportunity. And even though four decades have passed, I still get goosebumps remembering that day. This little boy was convinced she was an angel, and that this is what angels must sound like when they sing. No doubt about it - Lena Horne sang like an angel.
Anyway - give yourself that same blessing. Just close your eyes, and listen to Lena Horne sing.You can wring your hands about all the troubles in the world in just a few short minutes. Go into a world of childlike wonder - and ask yourself, I wonder if this is what angels sound like? Rest in peace Lena Horne. And may God bless you and keep you safe.