Monday, July 19, 2010

Dinah Washington

I discovered Dinah Washington at Woolco. Imagine discovering Dinah Washington at Woolco. What I found there was a budget reissue of some greatest hits collection, featuring some of her more popular songs from the late 40s. I found it in a clearance bin, and it was $1.25. At the same time I found The Harptones, The Five Keys, and Ramsay Lewis. I don’t remember what I’d gone to buy. Maybe a mattress.

Later I picked up a collection of her “jazz sides.” The quotation marks are there not because the recordings were not jazz, but because jazz informs everything she did. Would you pick out certain recordings by, say, Miles Davis as his “jazz sides?” I didn’t think so.

What this collection is is that original LP, plus excerpts from a box set, and altogether it doesn’t say much about her as a “hit maker,” such as she was, but notwithstanding the fact that she put 21 records into the top 100 between 1959 and 1963, hit making wasn’t what she was about. When was the last time you heard Dinah Washington on oldies radio?

I thought so.

Dinah Washington:

Salty Papa Blues – “I’ve got a man,” sings Dinah, “and he treats me like a rat.” Oh my. Not sure, though, whether it means “he treats me as a rat would treat me,” or “he treats me like he would treat a rat.” The first makes more contextual sense, but the second is more correct syntactical reading. Otherwise, “he treats me like a queen” is pretty weird.
It’s Too Soon To Know – Not love at first sight, not by any means. Take your time, get to know each other, figure things out. I have a version of this by Pat Boone, but I daresay that Ms. Washington is a better bet.
Blowtop Blues – Mental illness, does with pizzazz and humour. Figure it out.
Am I Asking Too Much – How often we want what everyone else seems to get effortlessly….
I’ll Never Be Free – I have this by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
How Deep Is The Ocean – An Irving Berlin song.
I Sold My Heart To The Junkman – All the internet references to this credit it to Pati LaBelle & The Bluebelles, who indeed hit with it in 1962, but the song is obviously much older, unless it’s a different song, but the arrangments are so radically different that’s it’s hard to tell for sure.
Evil Gal Blues – Her man is in the military, and things are not going well…
I Won’t Cry Anymore – Also done by Tony Bennett.
A Slick Chick (On The Mellow Side)
What Can I Say Dear (After I Say I’m Sorry)
I’ll Wait
Trouble In Mind – I have a version of this by Lou Rawls.
Am I Blue – I have a version of this by Ron Paley.
Love For Sale – Jerome Kern, wasn’t it?
Blue Skies – Another Irving Berlin song. Exquisite. This may be the best recording of a Berlin song, and that includes about one million recordings of White Christmas.
I’ve Got You Under My Skin – By Cole Porter. My favourite version is by The Four Seasons.
Blue Gardenia
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – Another Jerome Kern song, most famously done by The Platters; Dinah’s version has a completely different feel, just as lush, orchestra and all, but more soulful.
All Of Me
What A Difference A Day Made – I was in Ottawa with some pals, this was a long time ago, and I’d have enough Ottawa. My pals, they said we’ll stay one more day. We were having this discussion sitting in a beer garden by the Rideau Canal, and when the jazz singer who was performing segued into this song my friend said see? See? One more day makes a difference. And I couldn’t argue with it, could I. This was her breakthrough hit on the pop charts, hitting number 20 on Billboard in the summer of 1959. • Unforgettable – More closely associated with Nat King Cole, Dinah’s version was a hit in the fall of 1959.
A Bad Case Of The Blues
This Bitter Earth – This ascerbic look at life was a hit in the summer of 1960.
September In The Rain – Nostalgia to jazz rhythm. From late 1961.
Mad About The Boy

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