Remembering Lena Horne: “Now” by Santiago Alvarez, Film About Civil Rights Demonstrations Set to Lena Horne’s Singing

You should hear the anger Lena imbues in this song. You can see her gritting her teeth. At least, I can see her do it, in my mind.

I got this from Shadow and Act.

In 1964, a Cuban filmmaker named Santiago Alvarez made a five minute film montage of the then-current civil rights struggle in the United States. There are no voices, no intervening narration, except for the voice of Lena Horne.

You’ve heard the instrumental song before, haven’t you? Hundreds, maybe thousands of times? It’s Hava Nagila. Back to Wiki:

Hava Nagila” (Hebrew: הבה נגילה) is a Hebrew folk song, the title meaning “let us rejoice”. It is a song of celebration, especially popular amongst Jewish and Romani communities, and is a staple of band performers at Jewish festivals.

The melody was taken from a Ukrainian folk song from Bukovina. The commonly used text was probably composed by Abraham Zevi (Zvi) Idelsohn in 1918 to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Declaration.

The transliteration, spelling of the title and lyrics vary.

At this time, Horne was married to Leonard “Lennie” Hayton, an MGM music director, composer and arranger, and he was Jewish. Hayton died suddenly of a heart attack at 63 in 1971. The pair had been separated for a time during the Sixties, although they did not divorce. It was only at his death that she realized that she had loved him.

I also find it interesting that she would take a cue from her friend Paul Robeson (by that time Robeson’s mental and physical health had broken down, some say helped by U.S. and British intelligence), and change up the lyrics of a well-known, and rather harmless celebration song.

These are Lena Horne’s lyrics to Now! below. You can find it on the album, Here’s Lena Now!. I checked on Amazon.com; this album is out of print, meaning not on CD. Therefore, it may not be in mp3. You can still find platter copies. If anything, Horne’s death may at last open the vaults for compilations of her music, and more appreciation by fans.

If those historic gentlemen came back today
Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln
And Walter Cronkite put them on Channel 2
To find out what they were thinkin’

I’m sure they’d say
Thanks for quoting us so much
But we don’t want to take a bow

Enough with the quoting
Put those words into action
And we mean action now

Now is the moment
Now is the moment
Come on, we’ve put it off long enough

Now, no more waiting
No hesitatin’
Now, now
Come on let’s get some of that stuff

It’s there for you and me
For every he and she
Just wanna do what’s right
Constitutionally

I went and took a look
In my old history book
It’s there in black and white
For all to see

Now, now,
Now, now, now, now

Everyone should love his brother
People all should love each other
Just don’t take it literal, mister
No one wants to grab your sister

Now is the time
Now is the time

Now is the moment
Now is the moment
Come on, we’ve put it off long enough

Now, no more waiting
No hesitatin’
Now, now
Come on let’s get some of that stuff

It’s there for you and me
For every he and she
Just wanna do what’s right
Constitutionally

I went and took a look
In my old history book
It’s there in black and white
For all to see

Now, now,
Now, now, now, now, now,
Now
Now, now, now, now,

The message of this song’s not subtle
No discussion, no rebuttal
We want more than just a promise
Say goodbye to Uncle Thomas
Call me naïve
Still I believe
We’re created free and equal,
Now
Now
Now, now, now, now

Everyone should love his brother
People all should love each other
Since they say we all got rhythm
Come on, let’s share our rhythm with ‘em

Now is the time
Now is the time
The time is nowwwwww

You go, Lena.

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~ by blksista on May 11, 2010.

One Response to “Remembering Lena Horne: “Now” by Santiago Alvarez, Film About Civil Rights Demonstrations Set to Lena Horne’s Singing”

  1. Lena was wonderful! On the View this am Whoopi said Lena was up for “Showboat” years ago. She was overlooked because she was black. Ava Gardner got it and had to darken her skin with make-up to look the part.
    I’m so glad things have improved in some areas-but we’re not there yet!

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