Lena Horne dies at 92

Lena Horne, the ground-breaking singer, actress and civil rights activist who, in 1942, became the first African-American performer to be put under contract by a major studio, died on Sunday, May 9, at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.  She was 92. According to the New York Times, Horne’s death was announced by her son-in-law, Kevin Buckley.

Though her movie career spanned nearly six decades and included a smattering of well-regarded films, like Stormy Weather (1943), Ziegfeld Follies (1946), and Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956), Horne was best known for her singing. Her music highpoints include blockbuster collaborations with Tony Bennett, Grammy-winning recordings of her Vegas nightclub act (1981’s The Lady and Her Music, Live on Broadway, and 1995’s An Evening With Lena Horne), and her Tony-nominated performance in the Broadway musical, Calypso. Horne grew up in an upper-middle-class African American enclave of Brooklyn, raised primarily by her grandparents after age 3, when both her parents left the family. By the time she was 16, Horne had scored a regular singing gig at Manhattan’s Cotton Club. Her knack for dramatic flourish and romantic renditions of jazz standards led to appearances on TV variety shows including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Dean Martin Show, as well as a role in the big-screen musical, The Duke Is Tops (1938). Though she never found the substantial, satisfying work she sought on film, Horne did make an impact, later in life, on TV in recurring roles on The Muppet Show and The Cosby Show.

Throughout her career, Horne was equally dedicated to her advocacy for civil rights. She was an early pioneer in the movement for equality, fighting for desegregation alongside such legends of the movement as Paul Robeson and Medgar Evers. She also fought with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. The combination of Horne’s disarming talent and fierce individuality created a powerful force in breaking down racial barriers in Hollywood and beyond.

Horne is survived by her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley. Horne’s husband and her son both died in 1971, the latter of kidney failure.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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  • soulflower

    RIP Lena Horne…your talent and grace will be sorely missed :(

    • Richard

      I loved how Fred Sanford adored her on Sanford and Son, she was his favorite celebrity

      • Thelena

        i know, right??! :) that was one of my fav episodes .. ‘The Horne’ is comin’ to join ya, Fred .. RIP

      • Sina

        Also don’t forget that Different World episode where they paid homage to her. Great scene of Ms. Horne, Mr. Gains, Kim and Kim’s boyfriend dancing to reggae music.

    • Sally in Chicago

      What a great talent. She lived a long life.

      • orquidea

        Ms.Horne was very beautiful right up and till the end.

      • Addison

        Yes she was. Amazing, she didn’t look 92.

  • No Way

    RIP

    • cldavis

      what a beautiful woman,inside and out.such a wonderful talent. I liked her on fred sanford too.

  • etm

    Aww. Sad news. I remember first hearing about her on the Cosby Show when I was little.

  • Keith

    So sad when the world loses both a great talent and great human being. Peace and thanks to Ms. Horne!

  • Mary Anne Landers

    Rest in peace, Lena Horne . . . And thank you for the wonderful music.

    • Eternal Lena Fan

      Her recordings (on film and audio) will live forever. Her Christmas album is lovely, has uniquely syncopated, charmingly fresh and personalized, as appropriate reverent and humorously incommented versions of the great standards. Always creative, a great artist, lady, and Southern belle.

      • Eternal Lena Fan

        “Let It Snow!” eternal manna of Heavenly Grace on her soul, in that great Cabin in the Sky.

      • Steve

        How is she Southern Belle if she grew up in Brooklyn?

  • Zay

    RIP Ms.Horne. What a talent. she will be missed.

  • Anthony

    I was introduced to Lena when I was a young child watching Stormy Weather with my Grandfather. She will truly be missed.

  • TONEY JONES

    the most prettiest woman on earth has died. she will truly be missed.

    • Kelly

      Stunning *and* talented and pure class :(

  • w11

    Beauty, grace and talent. She will be missed. R.I.P.

  • znachki

    I once had the privilege of seeing Lena Horne in concert. She was stunningly beautiful, fierce in her beliefs, and a one of a kind singer. Thank you Miss Lena Horne for sharing your talent with us all.

  • Tyesh

    God Bless your soul and thank you for all of the years you gave to us we will miss you

  • Shane Dunne

    I can’t believe she was 92, she was so youthful and vibrant. What a class act. She will surely be missed.

  • Matthias

    I realy luv her. She is one whose like we shall never see again. Adien my lady

    • Dorothy Gee

      Thank you for sharing that comment,
      “She is one whose like we shall never see again”……yes indeed!!
      Lena Horne had a spitfire of a personality and a beautiful voice!!! At least we share the good memories don’t we!!
      A fine black lady who stood for
      black women everywhere. Her kind
      will never be forgotten — in fact she was the model for “”a voice for
      black America”” wouldn’t you agree.

      Thank you for the memories Lena Horne !

      Well, its time to say goodbye to
      all the actors, singers in our “boomer” generation who have
      died and we won’t ever see the likes of them again!!!

      This “new” generation won’t remember much about “the rat pack”;Lena Horne; Marmaduke – (comic strip)(now cut from the
      comics; Jackie Gleason on Sat in,
      “The Honeymooners”, Friday nights, Raw Hide with Clint Eastwood: Wagon Train; Lawrence Welka on Sunday nights…… even Kula Fran and Ollie…..the list could go on and on.

      Thank you Lena Horne at 92 yrs of age for your tenacity & your beautiful voice. Loved you……

      A Fan of Lena Horne

      • cldavis

        yes,she was a great influence for all black women RIP Lena,we’ll miss you

  • gerry

    :'(

  • JayJay

    RIP Lena.
    You have paved the way and inspired many

    you will be missed
    and never forgotten

    xx

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