Lena Horne, Eternal Queen: 1st Black Woman with Namesake Broadway Theater

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  Celebrity News

Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose announced the renaming of The Lena Horne Theatre at the 75th Tony Awards.

Horne paved the path for artists of color including DeBose, who won an Oscar for West Side Story in March, Jennifer Hudson, who became an EGOT as a producer of best musical winner A Strange Loop, and six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald.

McDonald spoke on the majesty of the honer, saying that she was “glad the Nederlander Organization is commemorating Lena Horne's legacy" and "Representation matters."

“This memorializing a Black woman is crucial. Lena Horne was talented, strong, and determined. She gracefully overcame hurdles. She was a civil rights activist whose stage and film work continues to inspire. The Lena Horne Theater will confirm that Black women and girls are seen, heard, and BELONG. As we stand in her theater, we will stand even taller on her mighty shoulders and her enduring legacy. This is historic,” she said.

The theatre’s renaming is even greater than a lifetime achievement award because it is so rare. Horne certainly received her share of flowers throughout her storied career. She was honored by the Kennedy Center in 1984, the Recording Academy in 1989, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.

Horne is most known for her portrayal as Glinda the Good Witch of the South in the 1978 film adaptation of The Wiz. Her rendition of "Believe in Yourself" is a Quincy Jones-produced highlight.

Three years later, Horne hit. Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music debuted on Broadway in May 1981, when she was 63, and ran for 333 performances. She won a Tony Award a month after her debut. "I'm so glad I'm getting all these roses before I lose my teeth," she remarked in her filthy victory speech.

In February 1982, the show's double-disc album won two Grammys: best cast show album and best female pop vocal performance. Horne beat Olivia Newton-John, Sheena Easton, Kim Carnes, and Juice Newton.

1985's Great Performances on PBS saw Horne nominated for a best variety, music, or comedy show Emmy award.

Horne's Broadway credits span 48 years, from 1934's Dance With Your Gods through 1982's one-woman performance.

Horne recorded “Stormy Weather” for the 1943 movie. Ethel Waters sang the song ten years earlier. Both albums are Grammy Hall of Famers.

Horne was nominated for a 1958 Tony Award for her performance in Jamaica.

In 1959, Horne recorded Porgy & Bess with Belafonte. Horne's album achieved No. 13 on the Billboard 200, her greatest chart rank. Harry and Lena, an Emmy-nominated 1971 ABC special, reunited the two stars.

Horne and Hungarian jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo released Lena & Gabor in 1970. "Watch What Happens" almost missed the Billboard Hot 100. Tony & Lena Sing played for 37 performances on Broadway in 1974.

Horne was nominated for eight Grammys, including pop and jazz. In 1995, she won a second Grammy for her CD An Evening with Lena Horne.

"Now!" is a civil rights rallying cry sung to the rhythm of "Hava Nagila" The song reached No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 three months after the March on Washington, which she attended. The lyrics are witty. “Say goodbye to Uncle Thomas/Call me nave/Still I believe/We want more than a promise."

The Nederlander Organization will host the renaming ceremony this fall. A date will be announced soon.


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