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Hundreds bid farewell to singer Lena Horne

Los Angeles/New York: Hundreds of people paid their last respects Friday to US singer and actress Lena Horne in New York, the first black movie star to sign a major Hollywood studio contract.

Horne died Sunday at age 92.

At the funeral in a church on the Upper East Side of New York, friends described Horne as a pioneer who paved the way for many black people. Soprano Jessye Norman, actress Vanessa Williams and singer Dionne Warwick, among others, were in attendance.

Horne made her stage debut at the age of 16 in her native New York, at the Cotton Club in Harlem, at a time when black singers performed for all-white audiences.

In the early 1940s, Horne starred in MGM musicals such as "Cabin in the Sky", "Stormy Weather" and "Ziegfeld Follies", although major Hollywood success continued to escape her.

In 1947, she secretly married Lennie Hayton, a white conductor and pianist, in France, because mixed marriages were then still prohibited in California.

Horne later made her name as a jazz singer. In 1981, she starred in the Grammy Award-winning one-woman Broadway show, "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music" and continued to release records into the 1990s.

In 1995, she won a Grammy for best jazz vocal performance for "An Evening with Lena Horne".

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