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Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington was at once one of the most beloved and controversial singers of the mid-20th century -- beloved to her fans, devotees, and fellow singers; controversial to critics who still accuse her of selling out her art to commerce and bad taste. Her principal sin, apparently, was to cultivate a distinctive vocal style that was at home in all kinds of music, be it R&B, blues, jazz, middle of the road pop -- and she probably would have made a fine gospel or country singer had she the time. Hers was a gritty, salty, high-pitched voice, marked by absolute clarity of diction and clipped, bluesy phrasing. Washington's personal life was turbulent, with seven marriages behind her, and her interpretations showed it, for she displayed a tough, totally unsentimental, yet still gripping hold on the universal subject of lost love. She has had a huge influence on R&B and jazz singers who have followed in her wake, notably Nancy Wilson, Esther Phillips, and Diane Schuur, and her music is abundantly available nowadays via the huge seven-volume series The Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury.

Born Ruth Lee Jones, she moved to Chicago at age three and was raised in a world of gospel, playing the piano and directing her church choir. At 15, after winning an amateur contest at the Regal Theatre, she began performing in nightclubs as a pianist and singer, opening at the Garrick Bar in 1942. Talent manager Joe Glaser heard her there and recommended her to Lionel Hampton, who asked her to join his band. Hampton says that it was he who gave Ruth Jones the name Dinah Washington, although other sources claim it was Glaser or the manager of the Garrick Bar. In any case, she stayed with Hampton from 1943 to 1946 and made her recording debut for Keynote at the end of 1943 in a blues session organized by Leonard Feather with a sextet drawn from the Hampton band. With Feather's "Evil Gal Blues" as her first hit, the records took off, and by the time she left Hampton to go solo, Washington was already an R&B headliner. Signing with the young Mercury label, Washington produced an enviable string of Top Ten hits on the R&B charts from 1948 to 1955, singing blues, standards, novelties, pop covers, even Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart." She also recorded many straight jazz sessions with big bands and small combos, most memorably with Clifford Brown on Dinah Jams but also with Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Wynton Kelly, and the young Joe Zawinul (who was her regular accompanist for a couple of years).

In 1959, Washington made a sudden breakthrough into the mainstream pop market with "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," a revival of a Dorsey Brothers hit set to a Latin American bolero tune. For the rest of her career, she would concentrate on singing ballads backed by lush orchestrations for Mercury and Roulette, a formula similar to that of another R&B-based singer at that time, Ray Charles, and one that drew plenty of fire from critics even though her basic vocal approach had not changed one iota. Although her later records could be as banal as any easy listening dross of the period, there are gems to be found, like Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," which has a beautiful, bluesy Ernie Wilkins chart conducted by Quincy Jones. Struggling with a weight problem, Washington died of an accidental overdose of diet pills mixed with alcohol at the tragically early age of 39, still in peak voice, still singing the blues in an L.A. club only two weeks before the end. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Complete On Mercury - Vol. 5

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
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Track List: The Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury Vol.7 (1961)

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
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Track List: The Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury, Vol. I (1946-49)

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3

Comments

RIP QUEEN
gopj
Loved you Dinah.
Hell yea dinah is from the chi
Love this woman's voice...amaz i n g
West side of Chicago
ccbe1962
One of her husbands was DickNighttra i n Lane,Detroit Lions defensive back in the late 50's early 60's.
Various female singers that have come along after her have been labeled the queen of this, or the queen of that. In her heyday, Dinah was known as the queen.....pe r i o d . She had no peers at the time!!
What an incredible talent. I really only have one word to describe her vocal style Fabulous. Dinah was a great singer. She knew just how to grab your attention and hold it until she wanted to let you go.
Dinah's voice always makes me feel great. She was one of a kind, one of my favorites.
Wrong lyrics for come rain or come shine!
gwells888
it was Brook Benton....no t Book ...lol...sor r y guys
gwells888
one of my favorite duos was Dinah Washington and Book Benton,,,the y were the best...
I love you Dinah Washington. Your Angel
abkornegay5
Cris B. .... the daughter of the writer of Cottage for Sale was the maid of honor at my wedding He wrote this when he and his wife divorced. She never really knew her dad, but long after he died, ASCAP locatd her and gave her a check for all the accrued royalties... i n c l u d i n g those due for a song used in the movie Awakenings. Unfortunatel y , she died not long after.
my most favorite rendition of cottage for sale... absolutely wonderful!!!
Well yes, jpsterling, she did so!
From NPR.org:
Washington also tried numerous prescription medications, primarily for dieting and insomnia. A mix of the pills she was taking in 1963 caused her death, which was ruled an accident. Her gift lives on through her rich musical legacy.
Took 2 seconds to look it up, no need to comment sans savoir.
Diana washington did not die from drugs maryeking47. . . . r e s e a r c h !
This is the first time I've heard Dinah Washington on Pandora and I must say she was truly gifted. What a beautiful voice. RIP.
What a loss so early in her career but her songs live on!
Love Dinah on her blues sides most of all. She got the feelin'!
teedub95464
A Rocking' Good Way..
Great remake!
It really brothers me that we lose so many musicians,si n g e r s , j u s t good talent from drugs,but we still have the music.
SOOOOOOOOOOO O AMAZING..... . . . . . . . . . .
I could listen to the jazz divas sing forevef
After Hours With Miss D is the best album ever!!!! Our Love Is Here To Stay Melts my heart..... Sublime voice and perfect song interpretati o n s . . . . Class Act!
Thanks to my dad, I listened to DW (not Darryl Waltrip) at a very young age and would spend Saturdays on the swing singing every DW song from the album I had memorized! Friends thought me the uncoolest white girl in town! 40 years later I'm still enjoying the best of the best!
Dinah was married to football legand Dickk night train Lane at the time of her death in Detroit, Mich
hisbasa2001
diva,diva,di v a , d e l l i c o u s . . . . s o u n d i n g prima balladress,s o n g s t r e s s , we your fans still salute you. stephen Arnold

love the music it is timeless
I agree: Jewel 'nails' it. Svelte stiletto forward motion...
mcscave
the best
sbirchard
Jewel here right below me said it the best. :)
Lush! Svelte, and sweet is the sound....
gdr924
I love Dinah. She and Chaka Khan are my favorites. DW does not get the credit she deserves. I love the ache and sass in her voice.
lanedwds38
73 years and I am still here and still playing her music she is simply the greatest .
I'm still trying to get Quincy Jones to give me an audtion to portray Ms. Washington my favorite singer, in an upcoming movie about her life. If Halle Berry can lip sinc her way through Dorothy Dandridge's life; she was my favorite actress, then I can definately performe as Miss D. It would be such as honor and previlage and the highlight of my acting career. So if you know Q please tell him Franque with a Q would really like to see him. MWAH!
all I can say is ... WOW
she never made a bad record!!!!!
I feel warm and content hearing her voice.
ahhhh cooking and listening to Dinah, what a great night!!!!
evan2455
What a voice!!!!!
jmorris8229
JUST THE BEST1
I grew up on Dinah's music love her will never forget her.
Doesn't get any better than this!
Love Miss D, the QUEEN! I would love to portray her in a biopic about her life. Whew! All those husbands and boyfriends, she was as MJ would say BAD.
my all time favorite love ms washington
stone127131
I am a big fan of female jazz/standar d s singers Dianh Washington was the best.
dec2sons
Very classy!
Dinah . . . . Listening to her voice today is as special as when I heard it on an LP 45 years ago. Some things are forever.
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