Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

by Nadine Cohodas
     
 

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Queen is the landmark biography of the brief, intensely lived life and soulful music of the great Dinah Washington.

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…  See more details below

Overview

Queen is the landmark biography of the brief, intensely lived life and soulful music of the great Dinah Washington.

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 sang 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Ted Panken
...a clear-spun narrative... what makes the book more than just an entertaining celebrity bio is Cohodas' authoritative portrayal of the milieu in which Washington functioned...
Downbeat
Publishers Weekly
A significant blues and jazz diva, Washington rivaled Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith with her soulful singing and her tempestuous ways. Once known as "Queen of the Blues and Queen of the Juke Boxes," Washington lived a tumultuous life, ascending to early fame with Lionel Hampton's band and flirting with all the temptations of a musician's life on the road. Drawing on archival materials and interviews with the singer's fellow musicians, Cohodas (Spinning Blues into Gold; Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change) provides a much-needed portrait of Washington. Born Ruth Jones in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1924, the young singer and her family soon moved to Chicago, where Jones left school to pursue a singing career. By the time she was 18, Washington was singing with Hampton's band at the Apollo Theater. In a few years she had made such a name for herself that she left Hampton for her own solo career, recording an album almost every year for the next 20 years until her death in 1963. Cohodas provides a detailed chronological account of Washington's turbulent life and career, including her seven marriages. Although Cohodas swamps the reader with a mass of exhausting details and her interpretations of Washington's music sometimes lack depth, she has written the definitive biography of this important singer. Agent, Philippa Brophy. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Blues singer Dinah Washington was propelled into the pop market by her 1959 recording of "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes." She had only begun to achieve the kind of recognition that she and a few critics believed she deserved when she died in 1963, having accidentally overdosed on diet pills. Cohodas (Spinning Blues into Gold) presents Washington's life admiringly and sensitively. More important is her effort to cull the facts from the myths and exaggerations associated with a life of such intensity. The author further distinguishes herself by the breadth and depth of her research and her use of details frequently omitted by other biographers. While she might only have listed the dates, personnel, and song titles of Washington's recording sessions, she instead examines each session in some depth, as she does with significant performances. Cohodas also writes feelingly about the racist era through which Washington lived and the ways in which she experienced it directly. A breakthrough portrait, this is highly recommended. Harold V. Cordry, Baldwin, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“The Queen: God bless her. Anyone who loved Dinah Washington as I did will appreciate this book by Nadine Cohodas, which beautifully documents the joys and sorrows of the life of this lady who was a peer of her contemporaries Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Billie Holliday.”
—George Wein, author of Myself Among Others and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival

“Dinah Washington died at thirty-nine, but packed so much life and incident into every moment it’s a wonder that Nadine Cohodas could sort it out; the marital adventures alone might have daunted a less avid biographer. Nor does she slight her music. Dinah could make every kind of song vital and personal, no matter the context–jazz, blues, swing, pop, r&b, or r&r. Cohodas captures the Queen in all her obstinate spitfire glory.”
—Gary Giddins, author of Weather Bird and Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307427380
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/18/2007
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
576
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Nadine Cohodas is the author of Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, The Band Played Dixie: Race and the Liberal Conscience at Ole Miss, and Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records, which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2000 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2002 as a classic of blues literature. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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