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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 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 he 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.
“The Queen: God bless her. Anyone who loved Dianh 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 Holiday.” —George Wein, author of Myself Among Others and founder of the Newport Jazz Festival
“Dianh 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 Giddens, author of Weather Bird and Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams