Family and friends gathered at St. Ignatius Loyola to mourn the death of jazz singer and actress Lena Horne.
Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Governor David Patterson filed into the Upper East Side church, where they joined friends like designer B. Michael, singer Dionne Warwick and novelist Walter Mosley to pay their respects.
Actress Vanessa williams was also in attendance. Horne's battle against bigotry opened to the door for many black actors in Hollywood.
In addition to her vocal talents, Horne battled racism being among a handful of black actors to have a contract with a major Hollywood studio when she signed with MGM in the 1940s.
Horne, noted for her seductive voice, captivated audiences with hits like "My Blue Heaven" and her signature song "Stormy Weather".
Lena Horne was born in Brooklyn and started her career in show business performing at Harlem's Cotton Club at the age of 16.
Horne had married MGM music director Lennie Hayton, a white man, in Paris in 1947 after her first overseas engagements in France and England. An earlier marriage to Louis J. Jones had ended in divorce in 1944 after producing daughter Gail and a son, Teddy.
Her father, her son and Hayton all died in 1970 and 1971, and the grief-stricken singer secluded herself, refusing to perform or even see anyone but her closest friends. One of them, comedian Alan King, took months persuading her to return to the stage, with results that surprised her.
Horne, whose striking beauty often overshadowed her talent and artistry, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success: "I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept," she once said. "I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked."
In the 1940s, Horne was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, to play the Copacabana nightclub in New York City and when she signed with MGM, she was among a handful of black actors to have a contract with a major Hollywood studio.
In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical "Stormy Weather." Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her most famous tune.
Horne had an impressive musical range, from blues and jazz to the sophistication of Rodgers and Hart in such songs as "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." In 1942's "Panama Hattie," her first movie with MGM, she sang Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things," winning critical acclaim.
In her first big Broadway success, as the star of "Jamaica" in 1957, reviewer Richard Watts Jr. called her "one of the incomparable performers of our time." Songwriter Buddy de Sylva dubbed her "the best female singer of songs."
"It's just a great loss," said Janet Jackson in an interview on Monday. "She brought much joy into everyone's lives — even the younger generations, younger than myself. She was such a great talent. She opened up such doors for artists like myself."
Horne died on Sunday at the age of 92.