By virtue of my date of birth, I fell in love with Lena Horne rather late in her singular career. For me, the moment came when I first heard that stunning, Grammy-winning album that Quincy Jones produced for her Tony-winning one-woman Broadway show Lena Horne: The Lady And Her Music. Upon hearing the news of Horne's death, I found myself wanting to read some accounts of this remarkable woman's life to see how people made sense of her remarkable if stormy American life. I noticed that Lena Horne's Wikipedia entry -- already updated with the date of her death -- begins by describing her as "an American singer, actress and dancer." She was all that, but in her life, she was and meant so much more.
To me, Lena Horne was one of the world's all-time class acts, a freedom fighter, an original, a radiant beauty, an enduring icon, a brave civil rights advocate and a great lady of standards. Early in her career, before she was blacklisted for her political views, Lena Horne was wrongly pressured to be something that she wasn't because of the strange racial politics of Hollywood. "I don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I'd become," Lena Horne once said. "I'm me, and I'm like nobody else."
She was Lena Horne, and nobody else will ever be like her again.