May 12, 2010

Jazz Love #8: Lena Horne

Lena Horne was simply amazing.  One of the first black performers to reach international fame in Hollywood, and the Jazz scene, her sultry voice, graceful phrasing, and charming presence made her a legend.  She died at the age of 92 in Manhattan on Sunday evening.

The best obit I've seen thus far was the one in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:
Most performers sing only with their voices, but Horne sang with her whole being: not only with her head and with her heart, but with her whole body. The flashing eyes, the graceful hands (whether clenched or unclenched, in motion or still), the commanding chin, the towering hair—even her teeth radiated with purpose. Like Sinatra, she inhabited a song and embodied it. The one time I was lucky enough to meet her in person, I was astonished to realize what a tiny woman she was close up, and how she made herself seem so much larger than life in performance through sheer willpower. She did the same thing with her voice: She never had the pure chops of Judy Garland or the miraculous musicality of Ella Fitzgerald, to name two of her peers, but she could take a tune and sell it like no one else. Sometimes even within the course of a single song she could be defiant and vulnerable, ecstatic and melancholy, serious and girlishly whimsical, seductive and spiritual
In honor of her life and musical legacy, I've dug up a few gems on YouTube.  I'll bet there will be many more posted in the coming days:



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