Monday, June 06, 2005

The Hypersexual Dinah Washington

From The Royal Blues, a review of Nadine Cohodas' Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, in the 23 Jun NY Review of Books: is surprising to imagine someone like Dinah she was when she first attracted national attention: a hypersexual eighteen-year-old. The fact is, Washington represented the norm for what was then a music made primarily by and for young Washington, most of the singers (and many of the instrumentalists) in big bands during World War II were teenagers speaking to their peers when they made their first records: Ella Fitzgerald was seventeen; Doris Day, sixteen; Billie Holiday, eighteen; Mel Tormé, nineteen...

During one performance in Las Vegas, the hotel pit boss lowered Washington's volume to satisfy a high roller from the South who didn't like her singing; Washington left the stage, walked through the casino, and told the boss, loudly enough for her audience to hear, "Motherfucker, I'm going to turn that [sound] back where it belongs, and if you touch it, I am going to break your fuckin' ass."...

She treated everything she sang as the rawest of materials, equal opportunities to impart her ebullient fury. When a British journalist asked her what kind of singer she considered herself, Washington said, according to Cohodas,

I don't think of myself as anything except a singer. I like to sing, and I'll sing ballads, church songs, blues, anything. I'll sing [the Hebrew song] "Eli, Eli" if you hang around. To me the important things are soul and conviction.... The Negro has been downtrodden in America for a long time, as you know. Maybe when you're singing a certain song you think of things that happened to you years ago.... Spirituals, blues, ballads, it doesn't matter.

Dinah Washington mp3s:
Evil Gal Blues (mp3)

Baby Did You Hear (Danger Mouse Remix) (from Verve Remixed 3)

Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby (Rae & Christian Remix) (Verve Remixed)

1 comment:

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