In Memoriam | Lena Horne | 1917-2010

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On May 9, 2010, Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, professionally known as Lena Horne, passed away.  A talented actress, engaged social activist, and sublime vocalist, Lena Horne was one of the first female jazz vocalists that I fell in love with.

I got introduced to Jazz music in middle school at the same time I delved into musical theater.  There was a musical called “Show Boat” (a heavy musical that dealt with integration and interracial romance) that I was researching at the local library, and I remember finding a version of my favorite song from the musical on a jazz sampler.  The song was “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and it was performed by Lena Horne.  There is a lot of history and trivia out there, and rather than write it all out here, I suggest you click on this IMBD link to read more.

Heaven.  Her voice was expressed so much emotion and expression that my heart melted, and she’s been a constant staple of my jazz collection and playlist rotation ever since.

Today, I remember a voice that I fell in love with.  With her passing back in 2010, a little bit of my heart broke. A classic beauty, sublime talent and divine individual doesn’t come around that often.  I’m just glad a bit of her soul is still with us in recordings and video.  Below are some of my favorite Lena Horne performances.

R.I.P., Lena. My “Lady” of jazz.

In Memoriam | Nina Simone | 1933-2003

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On this day, February 21, 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, better known as Nina Simone, was born.  Below are videos of her performing live some of my favorite songs from her catalog.

1.  “Black is the Colour (Of My True Love’s Hair)” 

2. “I Loves You, Porgy” 

3. “Backlash Blues” (Written by Langston Hughes

4. “I Put A Spell On You” 

I was able to find a recording of Nina’s entire set at the 1976 Montreaux Jazz Festival.  The clip of “Backlash Blues” is from that show.  The entire set is amazing and is: “Little Girl Blue”, “Backlash Blues”, “Be My Husband”, “Wish I Knew how It Is To Feel Free”, “Stars”, “Feelings” and “Africa”.  If you have some spare time, it’s a classic performance of music legend. Very highly recommended. 

R.I.P., Nina.  Your spell will always be over us.