Lena Horne

In this unedited interview, American singer, dancer and actress Lena Horne (pictured above in 1942) discusses her rise to fame and a career that began in the 1930s at Cafe Society and The Cotton Club. She recalls the music scene in London just after World War II, where she spent time performing and fans gave her their precious food rations as gifts. Horne experienced some racial prejudice in the UK, but also noted positive behaviour. She reflects on how she grew in confidence over time and acknowledges the significance of the Beatles and contemporaries Billie Holiday and Fred Astaire.

This unedited interview is presented as it was originally recorded. Therefore, there are changes in the sound levels and there may be some interruptions and interference from background noise. Parts of this interview were used in 'Ragtime to Rock 'n' Roll', a Radio 2 documentary series, first broadcast in 1974, about the history of popular music.

During the 1940s, black Americans were not allowed to live in Hollywood. However, Horne was able to do so with the help of a white friend who signed the lease on a house for her, a move that was met with disapproval. She was also compelled to keep her second marriage, to composer Lennie Hayton, who was white, secret for the first few years. An active supporter of the civil-rights movement, Horne refused to play roles that stereotyped black women or, in response to the US Army's poor treatment of black servicemen, perform to segregated audiences. Consequently, she was shunned by Hollywood for some years.

Recorded circa 1974.

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