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Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  152 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
At long last, the first serious biography of entertainment legend Lena Horne -- the celebrated star of film, stage, and music who became one of the first African-American icons.

At the 74th annual Academy Awards in 2002, Halle Berry thanked Lena Horne for paving the way for her to become the first black recipient of a Best Actress Oscar. Though limited, mostly to guest sing
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Atria Books (first published May 5th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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May 01, 2011 Monique rated it it was amazing
I grew up knowing that Lena Horne was one of the biggest brightest smartest star African Americans had ever seen. Reading this book transported me back to her early years in film and music. I was surprised to know that Horne was tormented as a child being called "high yeller" or emotionally abused. Her stardom was an act of love for her mom while her hearted longed to be truly loved unconditionally. It was heartbreaking to know that Horne saw her job as a dancer at the Cotton Club "as an escape ...more
Jerry Wendt
May 07, 2014 Jerry Wendt rated it it was amazing
James Gavin has written the definitive bio on Ms Horne. His exhaustive and unbiased research have been coupled with an easy-going narrative that makes Lena Horne come to life within the pages of his book. I had the additional pleasure of seeing his stage production "Stormy Weather" where he intersperses historical data and anecdotes between stylized Horne classics performed by the very talented Mary Wilson, of the Supremes. Wilson and Gavin, backed by a live musical combo make a fascinating and ...more
David Freeland
Nov 21, 2009 David Freeland rated it it was amazing
James Gavin's great strength as a biographer, I feel, is his ability (and willingness) to look at his subject from a range of different angles, never becoming fully satisfied until he's assessed, then reassessed, and assessed some more. In this fascinating study of the great, complicated Lena Horne, Gavin never goes for the easy solutions. Many biographers would have; Gavin could probably have gotten away with it too, but thankfully he doesn't. It's as if he's constantly holding his subject up t ...more
Annie Garvey
Aug 13, 2009 Annie Garvey rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully evenhanded look at the life of Lena Horne. It's dishy and all the loose ends are tied up. I really didn't know anything about Lena Horne. She isn't the nicest person, but Horne is a tragic survivor.
Author N. M. Shabazz
Jan 05, 2015 Author N. M. Shabazz rated it really liked it
Ageless beauty is what comes to mind for many whenever jazz singer and entertainer Lena Horne is mentioned, not being insecure or marginally talented. But James Gavin’s biography, Stormy Weather, portrays a side of her few have ever fathomed.
According to the book, Horne got her start mainly because of her skin color and her looks, not because of her talent. She was a light-skinned black whose European features and beauty were palatable enough to allow her to be thrust into the mainstream of jazz
Apr 15, 2012 Osa rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book - although, I was in constant surprise about how little I knew about the circumstances surrounding Ms. Horne's career, someone I'd idolized for a very long time. It's clear that the author spent a lot of time interviewing people close to Ms. Horne, personally and professionally, so one doesn't have to worry much about reading a book made up entirely of speculations (which, let's be honest, some of these celebrity biographies are).

Early on in the book, the a
Aug 23, 2012 V.G. rated it really liked it
Since the dawn of cinema and before ground-breaking Black icons such as Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Denzel Washington emerged onto the screen and presented positive depictions of Black Americans, Hollywood had been in the shameful practice of perpetuating false imagery of the African-American community.

Realistic and third-dimensional portrayals of the social diversity of the African-American were eschewed in place of damaging and destructive stereotypes which ranged from the "lazy" or "
Oct 19, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography-memoir
To me Lena Horne was the lady who sang with Grover (my fave) on Sesame Street and with Kermit the Frog on the Muppet Show. I still do not feel that I know her any better after reading this book. The 2 problems I had with it were both the authors fault and not the authors fault. Not the fault was that Horne herself has changed her history and the order of things throughout the years, making it hard to tell what was her imagination and what happened. As for the at fault, well, that maybe partly me ...more
Jul 17, 2014 Shannon rated it it was ok
I think for a biography to be charming the biographier needs to have sympathy for their subject. This book is well researched but it comes off as if the author thinks Lena is a whiny victim.
I don't need hagiography just a bit more understanding of how having all doors closed can rankle
Sep 08, 2011 Melody rated it it was amazing
Having lived through the Civil Rights movement I was intensely interested in Gavin's interweaving of Lena Horne's story with the state of our nation in regards to race relations throughout her life. He did an amazing job of shining a spotlight on many issues that remain today and used one woman's experiences and choices to show how damaging living under extreme prejudice can be. Horne's story is a fascinating one and Gavin does not attempt to make it a glossy, Hollywood story, but the stark real ...more
Tracie Green
Sep 07, 2015 Tracie Green rated it it was amazing
This book was not only a great read. It gave a historical review from black entertainment, black bourgeois and the shenanigans of Hollywood biggest studios. I am impressed with the research and enthralled by the elements of the book that took you through the chapters from Harlem Renaissance to Civil rights movement. The author introduced the woman and her music in ways that filled with heart felt confusion of Lena Horne. The family dynamics made me either laugh or cry. I enjoyed the book immense ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Deedums rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Ever realize your heroine was actually human? James Gavin's biography swept away any idyllic notions I had about Ms. Horne but it was really for my own benefit. You don't get to the top of anywhere without any missteps or mistakes. Character is tested; sometimes you pass and sometimes you fail.

You could easily define Ms. Horne as a pretty woman who succeed because of timing but page after page reveals how she and black women could not suffer fools and sacrificed the "having it all" goal.
Robert Starner
A terrific read and exploration of one of the entertainment world's most gifted and complicated women. Author presents extensive research of Lena Hornes full life with interviews from a broad range of collaborators. I had the opportunity to attend any author event a few weeks ago in Washington DC and was grateful for the author's presentation which included several video clips from periods throughout Horne's career which showcase her many moods and true vocal abilities.
Oct 03, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it
I never expected to actually finish it but I did, which is entirely a tribute to the quality of the writing. I'm not a big fan of Lena Horne. She always struck me as an oddly hostile and aloof performer and now I know why: she genuinely loathed most of her audience. After reading this biography, I have a little more sympathy for her, but no more affection. (PS: I don't know how with-it she is at this point but, if she's aware of it, she must HATE this book!)
Feb 21, 2011 Legojana rated it liked it
Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne is a graet read. It is very detailed in telling the life of the great American entertainer Lena Horne. However, When you get into some parts of the story you tend to feel if what the author is writing is totally true or if he just got that from another magazine article or book on this famous icon of entertainment. Overall, Stormy Weather is a interesting and Captivating story.
Jul 09, 2011 Jessi rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, 2011
What a lovely look at the life of a ground-breaking actress. Lena was not only a beautiful woman, she was politically active (to the point of being blacklisted for being too left-leaning), and worked to help bring about equal rights in the 1950's. This book is truly in-depth describing her start in the famous cotton club up to the point of her self-imposed seclusion.
Linda Johnson
Dec 14, 2009 Linda Johnson rated it really liked it
This is about Lena Horne who was a singer and her life beginning as a young girl growing up as a mixed race girl at a time when many people considered it unacceptable. She was neglected and abandoned over and over in her childhood. Life was difficult but ultimately she became a successful singer. So far, I would definitely recommend this book.
Nov 05, 2009 Nadivyah rated it really liked it
I am currently reading this book and I find her life very interesting. Partly because of the time period she began her career in. The Harlem Ren. is one of my favorite era's and the struggles of that time, make the successess of Lena and others all the more sweet. They endured so much that we take for granted
Jun 18, 2010 Adrienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm one of the biggest Lena Horne fans, and read her daughter's biography of their family in record time. This book, by James Gavin, is even more in depth, with more recent observations and research (up to 2009). Amazing and in-depth overview of Ms. Horne's personal life and obstacles.
Aug 28, 2009 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Very detailed book about the life of Lena Horne. It brought to light the many difficulties of black entertainers in the 40s, 50s and 60s. She was a very insecure and angry woman.
Jan 31, 2016 Brent rated it it was amazing
This amazing life story earned this amazing biography. The beginning is better than the end. She'[s complicated!
Great book: recommended.
Susan Ose
May 22, 2010 Susan Ose rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Lena Horne was a miserable person. James Gavin is a boring biographer.
Aug 18, 2009 Reginald rated it it was amazing
The best bio of 2009...of this I am sure!
Dec 28, 2009 Fatima marked it as to-read
ny times book review
Mar 19, 2011 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobio_and_bio
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