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"WEEP FOR ME" by Willa Mae Lane

The Career of Willa Mae Lane "Queen of Swing"

Willa Mae Lane was born April 13, 1919, the twelfth of thirteen children of Ella and Benjamin King. As a child, she had a very hard time. Her brothers and sisters hated her because of her fair skin color, and because she did not work in the cotton fields with them. Her life as a child was lonely. She often thought she was adopted, but the likeness of her and her mother proved her wrong.


As a little girl, she loved to dance. She would dance all the time and dreamed of being a professional dancer.  Her brothers and sisters didn't think she would amount to anything. Because of their dislike towards her, they favored and gave more attention to her younger sister. Her brother tried to steal her and give her to the white land owner who owned the land her father sharecropped.


Willa had a bad experience at the age of eight that later lead her to leave her family in Clayton Alabama and move to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with a sister who had also left home.


In moving to Cincinnati, she began a new life. A life that prepared her for what was to become a great career in singing and dancing. She had finally found happiness with her sister and the family they lived with. They all loved to see her dance, and as she got older the thought of her becoming a dancer was more and more possible. A dreamer she was and for good reason. For the desire that she had to become a star lead her to greatness.


Willa was well developed and large for her size and at the age of thirteen; she decided to go after her dream. Willa ran away from home and joined a traveling road show that took her across the country. Experiencing a part of life at the age of thirteen was extraordinary.


After returning from her first road tour and still at the age of thirteen, she decided to land a solo career in singing and dancing. After working theaters and clubs, she got a big break and started working with Lionel Hampton.  She worked the great clubs of that time like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. She started and performed with all the great entertainers of the thirties.




In 1936, she and another show girl won a Jim Crow lawsuit.  That same year, she meets the great Jessie Owens and did a command performance for a former King of England.  She went on to be in two motion pictures.  In 1939, Willa was one of the featured entertainers at the World's Fair.  Her credits are endless.


Willa is life as an entertainer was not all happy.  She had a secret love that made her happy and she shared some good moments with him. Willa was almost shot twice and had a fight with a couple of drunk sailors that were causing trouble in a diner. After she had become a star, she thought her family would love and respect her for her accomplishments only to find that the dislike and jealousy was still there.  She had very little contact with them and continued her career in song and dance.


Willa continued to travel across the country and once performed for the Cuban Premier Batista.  Willa lived a good life for a colored entertainer. She was well liked by her friends and the people who worked in the theatrical world.


Ms. Lane made her first trip to Buffalo New York to work at Club Moonglow. After a week of working and feeling comfortable with the city and the people, she met with a horrifying attack on her life.  A woman threw and smashed a cup of lye on her face and body. After being rejected for treatment at the hospital, her boss at· the Club came to her rescue. Having several operations and months of rehabilitation, Willa was left blind in one eye and undecided about her life. She tried to continue her career in show business. After a year of performing, she married, had a son and lived happily ever after. 


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