A superior ballad singer and a talented pianist, Shirley Horn put off potential success until finally becoming a major attraction while in her fifties.
She studied piano from the age of four. After attending Howard University, Horn put together her first trio in 1954, and was encouraged in the early '60s by Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. She recorded three albums during 1963-1965 for Mercury and ABC/Paramount, but chose to stick around Washington, D.C., and raise a family instead of pursuing her career. In the early '80s, she began recording for SteepleChase, but Shirley Horn really had her breakthrough in 1987 when she started making records for Verve, an association that continued on records like 1998's I Remember Miles and 2001's You're My Thrill. Along the way she picked up many prestigious honors including seven Grammy nominations (and one win for Best Jazz Vocal Album with I Remember Miles), a 1996 induction into the Lionel Hampton Jazz Hall of Fame and France's the Academie Du Jazz's Prix Billie Holiday for her 1990 album Close Enough for Love. In 2001 Horn's health began to fail (she had her left foot amputated due to diabetes) and while it affected her piano playing, she continued to perform sporadically and recorded one final album for Verve, 2003's May the Music Never End. Horn passed away on October 20, 2005, due to complications from diabetes. ~ Scott Yanow & Tim Sendra, Rovi