Dinah Washington, The Greatest Blues Singer of the 1950s

Written by Jae Jones

who was born “Ruth Lee Jones” on August 29,1924 was an amazingly talented African-American singer and pianist. She was known for being “the most popular female recording artist during the 1950s. Jones was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and moved to Chicago when she was still a child. She became deeply involved in church activities such as leading the female gospel singers “Sallie Martin Gospel Singers, and directing the church choir at St. Luke’s Baptist Church where she attended.


At the age of 15, Washington won a talent contest that would lead to her performing in clubs. By 1942 she was performing in places such as Chicago’s clubs; Dave’s Rhumboogie and the Downbeat Room of the Sherman Hotel. She was playing at the Three Deuces, a jazz club, when a friend took her to hear Billie Holiday at the Garrick Stage Bar. During her year at the Garrick while she sang upstairs,  Holiday was  performing  in the downstairs room.  This is where she acquired the name by which she became known, “Dinah Washington”.

Club owner Joe Sherman was so impressed with her singing of “I Understand”, backed by the Cats and the Fiddle, who were appearing in the Garrick’s upstairs room, that he hired her. Washington went on to have her first top ten pop hit with a version of “What a Diff’rence a Day Made in 1959. Her last big hit was in 1961 “September in the Rain.” She was known for a voice that was gritty, salty and high-pitched, but clarity with diction. Washington died in 1963 at the young age of 39.




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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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