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Dinah Washington

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Tuscaloosa AL, United States (1942 – 1963)

Ruth Lee Jones (born August 29, 1924 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; died December 14, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan), better known by her stage name Dinah Washington and also as the Queen of the Blues, was an American Grammy award winning singer best known for singing classic torch songs and her hit single What A Diff’rence A Day Makes. Her penetrating voice, excellent timing, and crystal-clear enunciation added her own distinctive style to every piece she undertook. While making extraordinary recordings in , , and contexts, Washington refused to record gospel music despite her obvious talent in singing it, as she believed it wrong to mix the secular and spiritual.

Washington was born Ruth Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As she was growing up in Chicago, she played piano and directed her church choir. Later, she studied in Walter Dyett’s renowned music program at DuSable High School. For a while, she split her time between performing in clubs as Dinah Washington while singing and playing piano in Salle Martin’s gospel choir as Ruth Jones.

Washington began performing in 1942 and soon joined Lionel Hampton’s band. 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 1958 she made a well-received appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

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