A gospel star at fifteen, she was discovered by jazz great Lionel Hampton at eighteen, and for the rest of her life was on the road, playing clubs, or singing in the studio--making music one way or another. Read more...
A gospel star at fifteen, she was discovered by jazz great Lionel Hampton at eighteen, and for the rest of her life was on the road, playing clubs, or singing in the studio--making music one way or another.
Dinah's tart and heartfelt voice quickly became her trademark; she was a distinctive stylist, crossing over from the "race" music category to the pop and jazz charts. Known in her day as Queen of the Blues and Queen of the Juke Boxes, Dinah was regarded as that rare "first take" artist, her studio recordings reflecting the same passionate energy she brought to the stage. As Nadine Cohodas shows us, Dinah suffered her share of heartbreak in her personal life, but she thrived on the growing audience response that greeted her signature tunes: "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," "Evil Gal Blues," and "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)," with Brook Benton. She made every song she sand her own.
Dinah lives large in these pages, with her seven marriages; her penchant for clothes, cars, furs, and diets; and her famously feisty personality--testy one moment and generous the next. This biography, meticulously researched and gracefully written, is the first to draw on extensive interviews with family members and newly discovered documents. It is a revelation of Dinah's work and her life. Cohodas captures the Queen in all her contradictions, and we hear in this book the voice of a natural star, born to entertain and to be loved.
- ISBN-13: 9780375421488
- ISBN-10: 0375421483
- Publisher: Pantheon Books
- Publish Date: August 2004
- Page Count: 576
- Dimensions: 9.58 x 6.06 x 1.47 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.06 pounds
She had what it took
Long before "crossover" and "eclectic" became part of the journalistic vernacular, Dinah Washington defied categorization and embraced any and every type of song. Her delivery was instantly identifiable, and she prided herself on crystal-clear diction, precise pitch and spontaneity. Washington made brilliant recordings, beginning with her days as a pianist accompanying gospel pioneer Sallie Martin, through swing and R&B sessions with Count Basie and Lionel Hampton, on to modern jazz ventures with Clifford Brown, Max Roach and Cannonball Adderley and later pop hits with Brook Benton.
Author Nadine Cohodas, whose previous book on Chess Records marvelously outlined that historic company, now gives the same exacting treatment to Washington in Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington. Cohodas also selected the songs on a companion CD, released on Verve Records.
Queen is the first truly comprehensive volume on the late singer. Cohodas conducted numerous interviews with insiders and family members and discovered documents and letters that reaffirm her assessments. Cohodas ably illuminates the quirks and contradictions of Washington's personality. Washington could be extremely kind and appallingly crude. She complained about her inability to find happiness in relationships, yet married seven times. A smart, extremely knowledgeable artist who had definite ideas about her music, Washington frequently clashed with bandmates, despite often being accompanied by the greatest jazz musicians on earth. Thankfully, Cohodas also presents Washington's upbeat, joyous and celebratory side, thus not totally resigning her to tragic victim status.
Sadly, Washington's ongoing conflicts and struggles with lovers, relatives and executives in many ways prevented her from achieving the fame she deserved, along with the fact that black female singers had extremely limited options during the '50s and early '60s. But Washington influenced numerous vocalists who followed her, most notably Esther Phillips and Nancy Wilson, while creating an exceptional body of work that's still captivating almost 41 years after her death at 39. Songs like "Unforgettable," "This Bitter Earth," "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" and "Baby You Got What It Takes" remain as documents of her excellence. Queen is a wonderful and invaluable addition to music biography and cultural history.
Ron Wynn writes for the Nashville City Paper and several other publications.