Dinah Washington (August 29, 1924 – December 14, 1963) was a blues, R&B and jazz singer. Because of her strong voice and emotional singing, she is known as the Queen of the Blues. Despite dying at the early age of 39, Washington became one of the most influential vocalists of the twentieth century, credited among others as a major influence on Aretha Franklin. She is a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
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.
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 with Brook Benton: "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. 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. 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.
Dinah was well known for singing torch songs. Her rendition of the popular standard "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" was well regarded; a 40-song box set of the same name was released in 1999.
|1959||Best Rhythm & Blues Performance||What a Diff'rence a Day Makes||R&B|
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.
|1954||Teach Me Tonight||R&B (Single)||Mercury||1999|
|1959||What a Diff'rence a Day Makes||Traditional Pop (Single)||Mercury||1998|
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed a song of Dinah Washington as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock.
|1948||Am I Asking Too Much?||R&B|
|1993||Rock and Roll Hall of Fame||Inducted||Early Influences|
|1984||Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame||Inducted|
About six months after her marriage to football player Dick "Night Train" Lane, she died, aged 39, from an accidental overdose of prescription sleeping medication ingested on an empty stomach. Washington, who was 5'2" (1.58 m) tall and had fought weight problems for most of her life, was dieting to lose weight before a New Year's Eve party.
A recent surge in popularity in 2008 can be credited to a promo being run by Doubletree Hotels which features "Relax Max", a catchy tune from The Swingin' Miss "D" album. Also in 2008, "Backwater Blues" and "A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around And Fall In Love)" were included on the Nights in Rodanthe Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
|US R&B||US Pop|
|1948||"Am I Asking too Much"||1|
|1949||"Baby Get Lost"||1|
|1955||"I Concentrate on You"||11|
|"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|
|1958||"Make Me a Present of You"||27|
|1959||"What a Diff'rence a Day Makes"||4||8|
|1960||"Baby (You've Got What it Takes)" (w/ Brook Benton)||1||5|
| ""A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love)" |
(w/ Brook Benton)
|"This Bitter Earth"||1||24|
|Love Walked In"||16||30|
|1961||"September in the Rain"||5||23|
|1962||"Cold, Cold Heart"||96|
|"Where Are You"||36|
|"You're a Sweetheart"||98|
|"You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You"||87|