From The Newport Jazz Festival in 1959 with Max Roach on drums. As one youtube user commented. "Do you see who influenced Amy Winehouse?" In my opinion, Dinah surpasses them all as a blues singer, including Aretha
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.
Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her family moved to Chicago 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 School. 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 undertook. 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 spiritual, and after she had entered the non-religious professional music world she refused to include gospel in her repertoire. Washington 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.
In 1943 she began recording for Keynote Records and released "Evil Gal Blues," her first hit. By 1955 she had released numerous hit songs on the R&B charts, including "Baby, Get Lost," "Trouble in Mind," "You Don't Know What Love Is" (arranged by Quincy Jones), and a cover of "Cold, Cold Heart" by Hank Williams. In March of 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" 1959, Washington won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance. The song was her biggest hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
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, the album was a huge success and 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 "September In The Rain," which reached #35 in the UK in November 1961 and #23 in the USA. In 1960, she also had two top-10 hit duets with Brook Benton: "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)" and "A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall In Love)." She also dealt in torch songs; her rendition of the popular standard "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" was well regarded.
Washington was married seven times in the U.S., with an eighth wedding performed in Stockholm, Sweden, and divorced six times while having several lovers, including Quincy Jones), her young arranger. Legend has it that she wore mink in all weathers and carried two .45-caliber pistols with her. Although she had a reputation as imperious and demanding, many found her loving, funny, generous and forgiving. Audiences sensed this remarkable combination of qualities and loved her. In London she once declared, "...there is only one heaven, one earth and one queen...Queen Elizabeth is an impostor"; the crowd loved it.
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.
In 2007, R&B platinum-selling singer Deborah Cox reinterpreted the classic songs of Dinah Washington on her fourth album Destination Moon.
A recent surge in popularity can be credited to a promo being run by Doubletree Hotels which features "Relax Max", a catchy tune from the The Swingin' Miss "D" album.