Paying tribute to a legend
Former Supreme stars in show celebrating music of Lena Horne
By BOB SAAR
for The Hawk Eye
An American music legend comes to Burlington tonight and tomorrow when Mary Wilson of The Supremes sings at The Washington in Burlington.
"Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project" is a multimedia biography of the late, legendary Lena Horne. A combination of storytelling, live performance and rare film footage, it's a celebration of Hollywood's first black goddess, who reigned in MGM musicals before becoming a fabled nightclub seductress and civil rights icon.
The show is based on author James Gavin's book of the same name. It was on Oprah's 2009 reading list and nominated for a NAACP Image Award.
From the Cotton Club's glory days and the back lots of Hollywood to the glitzy resorts of Las Vegas, this behind-the-scenes look at an American icon is as much a story of the limits of the American dream as it is a ground-breaking biography.
Mary Wilson of the pioneering black vocal trio The Supremes is the big name on the ticket, but she doesn't characterize Horne.
"I don't try to portray her, I just sing the songs," Wilson said.
A sample of songs include Horne's trademarks "Stormy Weather," "A Lady Must Live," and "It's All Right with Me."
Wilson achieved fame in 1964 when The Supremes made the first of their 16 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show." They recorded 12 No. 1 hits before the end of the decade. Wilson went on to become a best-selling author, motivational speaker, former U.S. cultural ambassador and AIDS activist.
"Stormy" does not include any Supremes songs.
"I started singing jazz about five years ago. Everyone knows me singing my oohs and my ahhs in The Supremes, and that was cool," Wilson said. "If I die and have to come back, I wouldn't mind being a Supreme."
Author James Gavin narrates the event, reading selections from the book. He's written for the New York Times, Vanity Fair and the Huffington Post. His essay for an Ella Fitzgerald collection earned a 1996 Grammy nomination.