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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

We end this hour with the passing of legendary singer and actress Lena Horne. Horne died Sunday in New York City. She was 92 years old. Lena Horne's more than 60-year career broke barriers for African-Americans in film, television and on stages from Las Vegas to Broadway.

As NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, a career that began with frustration ended in celebration.

SONARI GLINTON: In 1981, after more than 40 years in show business, Lena Horne took the Broadway stage for what would be her most triumphant role.

(Soundbite of song, "Stormy Weather")

Ms. LENA HORNE (Singer/Actress): (Singing) I don't know why there's no sun up in the sky, stormy weather...

GLINTON: In "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," the singer unburdened herself of the unique difficulties of being one of the first black movie stars. For instance, studio executives didn't think she appeared dark enough on screen, so they went to the legendary makeup artist Max Factor for a solution.

Ms. HORNE: He said, okay, I'll take a chance, and he did. He went away. He came back about two weeks later with this makeup they created for me. They named it Light Egyptian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HORNE: They took this Light Egyptian, they put it all over Ava Gardner and gave her my part, my part as Julie that I really wanted to play.

(Soundbite of applause)

GLINTON: Losing the role of Julie in the film version of "Show Boat" to her friend Ava Gardner was just one of the many opportunities that passed Horne by in Hollywood. She refused to take parts as sidekicks and servants, which curtailed her movie career. But when Hollywood failed her, she always had music to fall back on.

(Soundbite of song, "From This Moment On")

Ms. HORNE: (Singing) From this moment on, you for me, dear, only two for tea, dear, from this moment on...

GLINTON: Lena Horne's career began in the 1930s in the chorus of the legendary Cotton Club. She went on to become the first black singer to front Charlie Barnet's all-white band. She landed a cameo in a 1942 Ethel Merman movie, and the following year, she starred in "Cabin in the Sky" and "Stormy Weather."

But she got few leading roles. Her activism and her friendship with Paul Robeson got her blacklisted.

Ms. DIAHANN CARROLL (Actress/Singer): Lena Horne was angry and unfortunately so am I.

GLINTON: Actress and singer Diahann Carroll was one of a generation of black actresses who followed Horne to Hollywood. She says the disappointments and the anger of being the first were enough to crush lesser women.

Ms. CARROLL: I know that she had to carry that while trying to overcome it constantly.

GLINTON: If she couldn't conquer Hollywood, she did conquer the nightclub stage and television. She was a frequent guest on nearly every variety show in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Her 1980s solo Broadway show won her a Tony and a Grammy. And Wall Street Journal jazz critic Will Friedwald says she ended her career in the '90s at the top of her game.

Mr. WILL FRIEDWALD (Jazz Critic, Wall Street Journal): In the early work, she's always, you know, trying to prove everything, trying to establish things, and you know, really working to gain your attention. And in the later work, she just kind of lays back and lets it happen.

Ms. HORNE: So I want to tell you, I felt bad for a while - about 12 years.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HORNE: Yeah, I got over it. I got over it. I knew life was going to go on and history was going to try to play catch-up.

(Soundbite of applause)

GLINTON: History did play catch-up eventually.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Stormy Weather")

Ms. HORNE: (Singing) Stormy weather, since my man and I ain't together, it keeps raining all the time. Oh, yeah, my life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere, stormy weather. Well, I just about can't get my poor self together, because I'm weary, yeah. I'm weary all the time.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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