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Dinah Washington (August 29, 1924 – December 14, 1963) was a blues, R&B and jazz singer. Despite dying at the early age of 39, Washington became one of the most influential vocalists of the twentieth century,. She is a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Famemarker.

Early life

Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabamamarker. Her family moved to Chicagomarker while she was still a child. As a child in Chicago she played piano and directed her church choir. She later studied in Walter Dyett's renowned music program at DuSable High Schoolmarker. At 16 as Ruth Jones, she toured the United Statesmarker' black gospel circuit with Roberta Martin accompanying her at the piano. There was a period when she both performed in clubs as Dinah Washington while singing and playing piano in Sallie Martin's gospel choir as Ruth Jones.

Her penetrating voice, excellent timing and crystal-clear enunciation added her own distinctive style to every piece she performed. While making extraordinary recordings in jazz, blues, R&B and light pop contexts, Washington refused to record gospel music despite her obvious talent in singing it. She believed it wrong to mix the secular and the spiritual, and after she had entered the non-religious professional music world she refused to include gospel in her repertoire. She began performing as a teenager in 1942 and soon joined Lionel Hampton's band. There is some dispute about the origin of her name. Some sources say the manager of the Garrick Stage Bar gave her the name Dinah Washington, while others say Hampton selected it.

Rise and fall

In 1943, she began recording for Keynote Records and released the 12-bar blues "Evil Gal Blues", her first hit. She then switched to Chicago-based Mercury Records and from 1948 to 1955, she had numerous hits on the R&B charts, including "Am I Asking Too Much", "Baby Get Lost", "Trouble in Mind", ""I Won't Cry Anymore", "TV is The Thing This Year", "Teach Me Tonight" and a cover of Hank Williams's "Cold, Cold Heart". In March 1957, she married tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee (formerly on tour with Lionel Hampton), who led the band behind her. In 1958 she made a well-received appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

With "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" in 1959, Washington won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance. The song was her first top ten hit in the Pop charts, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, although most of her releases had reached the R & B Top Ten.

The commercially driven album of the same name, with its heavy reliance on strings and wordless choruses, was slammed by jazz and blues critics for being too commercial and for straying from her blues roots. Despite this, it was a huge success and from that point, Washington continued to favor more commercial, pop-oriented songs rather than traditional blues and jazz songs. Along with a string of other hits, she followed this with a new version of the 1952 hit for Nat 'King' Cole, "Unforgettable", which also sold well, reaching #17 Pop.

In 1960, she teamed up with another successful Mercury artist Brook Benton and the two had back-to-back top-10 hit duets: "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)" (U.S. #5) and "A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall In Love)" (U.S. #7). Both hit the top spot on the R & B chart, "Baby" staying there for 10 weeks. Dinah scored a third R&B chart-topper the same year when her version of "This Bitter Earth" went all the way, also reaching #24 in the Hot 100. Her last major hit was "September in the Rain", which reached #23 in the USA, #35 in the UK, and #5 in the US R&B chart. These later recordings were supervised by Mercury's in-house producer in New York City, Clyde Otis, who also produced Benton's long run of hits.

By mid-1962, Washington's solo records had stopped selling as well, scoring low positions (anywhere from 70 to the 90s) on the Billboard top 100 of that year. Considering that chart success was more difficult to grasp than before, she made the move to Roulette Records. There she had a reasonable hit with the 2-sider "Where Are You" and "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You," but the records continued their low-scoring trend after that.

Dinah was well known for singing torch songs. In 1992, her 30-year-old version of Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy" became a minor hit in the UK after being used in a TV commercial.

A 40-song box set titled "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" was released in 1999.

Selective awards and recognitions

Grammy Award

Year Category Title Genre
1959 Best Rhythm & Blues Performance What a Diff'rence a Day Made R&B


Grammy Hall of Fame

Recordings by Dinah Washington were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."

Year Title Genre Label Year Inducted
1959 Unforgettable Pop (Single) Mercury 2001
1954 Teach Me Tonight R&B (Single) Mercury 1999
1959 What a Diff'rence a Day Makes Traditional Pop (Single) Mercury 1998


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker listed a song of Dinah Washington as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock.

Year Recorded Title Genre
1948 Am I Asking Too Much? R&B


Honors and Inductions

  • In 1993, the U.S. Post Office issued a Dinah Washington 29 cent commemorative postage stamp.
  • In 2008, the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Washington's birthplace, renamed the section of 30th Avenue between 15th Street and Kaulton Park "Dinah Washington Avenue." The unveiling ceremony for the new name took place on March 12, 2009, with Washington's son Robert Grayson and three of her grandchildren, Tracy Jones, Tera Jones, and Bobby Hill Jr., in attendance.


Year Title Result Notes
1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducted Early Influences
1984 Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame Inducted


Personal life

Washington was married and divorced six times while having several lovers, including, according to Patti Austin, Quincy Jones. In London, in 1959, she declared "I'm happy to be here, but just remember. There's one heaven, one earth and one queen: Elizabeth is an imposter".

Death

A little over six months after her July 2, 1963 marriage to football player Dick "Night Train" Lane, on December 14, 1963, Lane found his wife dead in their home. Dinah Washington was 39. Dinah Washington was buried in the historic Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois.

Discography

Albums



Singles

Year Song Peak chart positions
US US R&B UK
1944 "Evil Gal Blues" 9
1948 "Am I Asking Too Much" 1
"West Side Baby" 7
1949 "Baby Get Lost" 1
"Good Daddy Blues" 9
"Long John Blues" 3
1950 "I Only Know" 3
"I Wanna Be Loved" 22
1954 "Dream" 9
1955 "I Concentrate on You" 11
"I Diddie" 14
"If It's the Last Thing I Do" 13
"That's All I Want from You" 8
"You Might Have Told Me" 14
1956 "I'm Lost Without You Tonight" 13
"Soft Winds" 13
1958 "Make Me a Present of You" 27
1959 "What a Difference a Day Made" 8 4
"Unforgettable" 17 15
1960 "Baby " (w/ Brook Benton) 5 1
"A Rockin' Good Way " (w/ Brook Benton) 7 1
"This Bitter Earth" 24 1
"Love Walked In" 30 16
"It Could Happen To You" 53
1961 "September in the Rain" 23 5 35
1962 "Cold, Cold Heart" 96
"Dream" 92
"I Want to Be Loved" (new version of 1950 hit) 76
"Where Are You" 36
"You're a Sweetheart" 98
"You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" 87
1963 "Soulville" 92
1992 "Mad About the Boy" 41


Other notable recordings



See also



References

  1. 'Documentarist Ken Burns takes on jazz'
  2. Dinah Washington Biography'
  3. Bogdanov et al. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues p. 373. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879307366
  4. New York Times. April 7, 1998. Peter Marks. Theater Review: Queen Of Blues Is Royally Annoyed With Life
  5. Barnes & Noble. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Best of Dinah Washington
  6. Grammy Hall of Fame Database
  7. 500 Songs That Shaped Rock
  8. "Odetta should be memorialized" The Tuscaloosa News, Monday, December 8, 2008
  9. "Sign links singer with local roots" by Bebe Barefoot Lloyd, The Tuscaloosa News, Friday, March 13, 2009
  10. Patti Austin recorded in BBC documentary, The Many Lives of Quincy Jones, 2008
  11. "A life of Dinah Washington" The Economist, September 9th 2004 Retrieved 2009-08-03


Further reading

  • Queen of the Blues: A Biography of Dinah Washington, Jim Haskins, 1987, William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-04846-3
  • Top Pop Records 1955-1972, Joel Whitburn, 1973, Record Research.


External links







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