Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 11, 2010

     I knew Billie Holiday slightly, had dinner with her once and talked about her life and her music.  I remember that voice, so full of sweetness and pain.  And I knew Ella Fitzgerald slightly.  We chatted between sets one evening when she was singing at a club in New York.  And I remember that voice, the scat style she invented which could bring a club crowd cheering to its feet.      I never met Lena Horne and so I'll miss her differently--a voice, a beauty now gone from our national treasury. She was so beautiful that Michelangelo, sculpting her, wouldn't have changed a line.  But she was much more than that.  She came to Hollywood when blacks were mostly servants or Sambos;   she never was.  If there's anything you remember about her in those movies, it's her dignity, her presence.  When she was on the screen, she owned it.  Blacks, when she came to Hollywood, were second-class citizens.  She wasn't.   Time passed, she came to Broadway in the 1950s and wowed it.  When she went back to Hollywood as Glinda the Good in the film version of Broadway's The Wiz, she wowed it too.      She was an activist, refusing to perform before segregated audiences, which cost her, among other gigs, a USO tour.  In the 80s she was back on Broadway in a show which bore her name.  She won two Tony awards and many hearts.   She was, to put it simply, successful at being herself.      Good night, Lady.
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