When Malcolm X was Malcolm Little, his favorite singer was our featured artist.
"There is only one heaven, one earth and one queen (me) Queen Elizabeth is an impostor." – Dinah Washington
Today marks the day that Malcolm X was murdered in New York City during a public speaking engagement in 1965. Before X's conversion to Islam while incarcerated, he was Malcolm Little, often referred to as "Detroit Red". We know from his autobiography that he was, at times, a pimp, a thief and a hustler. What is often left out of many biographies about the former Malcolm Little were the non-criminal activities he enjoyed. Like many young Black men of the era, he loved Jazz music, and had written in his personal journals that Dinah Washington was his favorite.
Born Ruth Lee Jones in rural Alabama, she moved to Chicago with her family at a very early age. Washington, like many iconic Black performers before her, started singing Gospel and religious numbers in church. At 15, she won a local talent contest, and soon began performing in clubs in the Chi-town area. She ended up working with many Jazz-era greats, including Fats Waller and most importantly, Lionel Hampton. She also began to stretch her repertoire greatly, encompassing not just Jazz, but Blues and Pop selections as well.
Dinah Washington, 1956. Photographer unknown, courtesy of the Hudson Archives.
She became an iconic figure to her fans, not just setting a vocal standard with her impeccable timing and phrasing, but with her personal style, including wearing fur coats even on the hottest of days. She topped the charts regularly and infused her singing style with a kind of knowing, almost world-weary and sultry delivery that many have attempted to emulate, but few have successfully pulled off. Fond of singing slow ballads and torch songs, she performed at many festivals and on early television programs to enormous response.
Alas, her hard living ways eventually got the better of her. She died in 1963, after overdosing on a combination of alcohol and prescription sedatives. She was just 39 years old.
1. Richest Guy In The Graveyard
2. These Foolish Things
3. You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You
4. Call Me Irresponsible
5. Why Was I Born?
6. Drinking Again
7. Teach Me Tonight
8. Easy Living
9. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
10. Begging Mama Blues
11. Baby Get Lost
12. I'll Close My Eyes
13. Blue Gardenia
14. Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby
15. Mellow Mama Blues
16. I Sold My Heart To The Junkman
17. What A Difference A Day Makes
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX
“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for 'fair use' for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."