Born Ruth Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on August 29, 1924, Dinah Washington moved to Chicago as a child and became deeply involved in gospel music. After winning a talent contest at the age of 15, she began performing in clubs. She was discovered by Lionel Hampton who hired her for his band where she made her first recordings, “Evil Gal Blues” and “Salty Papa Blues,” which made the Harlem Hit Parade chart in 1944. She went out as a solo performer, signing with Mercury records, and began a streak of R&B chart hits Her 1950 recording “I Want To Be Loved” crossed over onto the pop charts. In 1958 she made a well-received appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Dinah Washington was a celebrated Jazz singer but she recorded many types of music, including R&B, blues, jazz, middle of the road rock and pop. She became one of the most influential vocalists of her time. Between 1948 and 1955, she had 27 R&B top ten hits, making her one of the most popular and successful singers of the period.“What A Difference A Day Makes” won Dinah a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance. She followed with a string of pop hits that included “Unforgettable in 1959, “This Bitter Earth” and “Love Walked In” in 1960 with “September In The Rain” a year later. Dinah also had two very successful duets with Brook Benton ”Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes” and “A Rockin’ Good Way” in 1960.
Dinah died on December 14, 1963 at just 39 years of age. She is at rest at the Burr Oak Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.
Dinah Washington is a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2012.