"Stormy Weather: The Legendary Lena 1941-1958,"by Lena Horne, is a BMG rerelease and remastering, based on the album of the similar name that was originally released by RCA Records in 1956. Many critics believe Horne, born in Brooklyn in 1917, was at her best in these early years, when she was still largely an intimate cabaret star, before she learned to belt out a song, as was required by big band singing. (Now, well into her nineties, she makes no further public appearances.) Her career, as a pop/jazz/Broadway diva, ran from 1938, when she was discovered singing and dancing at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem, to 2000. And she's been famous since 1943, on the slipstream of this worldwide hit "Stormy Weather," from the movie of the same nameStormy Weather. It was made at 20th Century Fox, while she was a young beauty on loan from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (Unhappily, it's pretty clear that, at that time and place, Horne's career was greatly limited by her color.)
Horne was blacklisted in the 1950's for her political beliefs; but she has come back to win many awards in her long career. Several Grammies, including a Lifetime Achievement Award; an NAACP Image Award for her civil rights work, and a Kennedy Center Award. She has headlined at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria in New York - her 1957 live album, "Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria" was the largest selling record by a female artist in RCA history. And she's made many, many television appearances.
In 1981, she had her own Broadway show, "The Lady and Her Music," at the Nederlander Theatre on West 41st Street. She won a special Tony for this performance, as well as two Grammies for the recordings thereof. It ran for nearly a year, 333 performances, and closed on her 65th birthday, June 30, 1982. (By the way, she still holds the record on that: longest-running show by a female solo performer.) Horne then toured with the show until 1984, finally closing it in Stockholm, Sweden. I had the inestimable privilege of seeing her on Broadway in this show: at one point, she addressed us women in the audience: "Ladies, don't hate me for how I look--this is part of my job." And you should have seen/heard her do her signature "Stormy Weather:" as she'd done it as a beautiful young performer. And as a mature woman who'd seen some stormy weather in her life.
The album at hand is largely a compilation of well-known, popular music from the Great American Songbook, and it's difficult to choose favorites. There are works by Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, Johnnie Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers, and Betty Comden-Adolf Green-Leonard Bernstein. And Comden-Green-Jule Styne. It's just plain great.