No 510: In Memoriam

Monday, May 10, 2010

Growing up, I was frequently called by the "wrong" name; it wasn't until middle school when I realized that the pronunciation of "L-E-N-A" as "Lee-nah" was actually quite a compliment, for its association with the incredible Lena Horne.

She passed away yesterday at the age of 92, a legend and a lady. She had a stunning voice, but for all her talent, she may be best known for her pioneering role in Hollywood. Her skin was so light that directors felt they couldn't convincingly cast her as a black woman, and they wouldn't portray her as a white woman. As a result, Max Factor developed his often-imitated Pan Cake, to darken her skin. She refused to play "domestics" or other stereotypes in film, and won Grammy's and Tony Awards despite racial prejudice.

Whether or not you're familiar with Lena Horne, you've probably heard her incredible "Stormy Weather", a 1933 song written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and first sung at the Cotton Club. It's a perfect way to celebrate her inspirational life, and a wonderful way to enjoy San Francisco's rainy weather.



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