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Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

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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 t 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 sand her own. Dinah lives large in these pages, with her seven marriages; her penchant for clothes, cars, furs, and diets; and her 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.


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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 t 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 sand her own. Dinah lives large in these pages, with her seven marriages; her penchant for clothes, cars, furs, and diets; and her 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.

30 review for Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Freeland

    Cohodas has certainly done her research. Facts and details are painstakingly excavated. But somehow the soul of the great Dinah Washington - one of the most brilliant vocalists of the 20th century - is missing. I suppose it's the difference between scholarship and insight. A book about as sly and capricious a person as Dinah should not be a dry read. For this reason, although it's technically the lesser work, I think I prefer the late Jim Haskins' more by-the-numbers biography that appeared in t Cohodas has certainly done her research. Facts and details are painstakingly excavated. But somehow the soul of the great Dinah Washington - one of the most brilliant vocalists of the 20th century - is missing. I suppose it's the difference between scholarship and insight. A book about as sly and capricious a person as Dinah should not be a dry read. For this reason, although it's technically the lesser work, I think I prefer the late Jim Haskins' more by-the-numbers biography that appeared in the 1980s. It was a slapdash affair, but it came closer to distilling the spirit of this larger-than-life figure (the mink toilet seats, the furs, the 8 husbands, the gargantuan vocal powers). Still, QUEEN is an important read for Dinah's fans.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Phil Overeem

    Extraordinarily well-researched biography of a pop/blues/jazz singing icon. Cohodas is a very solid writer who produces plenty of insights, but at times the detail is excruciatingly (and unnecessarily) dense and repetitive (structurally). I'm a big Miss D fan, but I really had to grind this out; I feel somewhat the some way about Cohadas' Chess book. Nonetheless, both books are invaluable to understanding their subjects. Extraordinarily well-researched biography of a pop/blues/jazz singing icon. Cohodas is a very solid writer who produces plenty of insights, but at times the detail is excruciatingly (and unnecessarily) dense and repetitive (structurally). I'm a big Miss D fan, but I really had to grind this out; I feel somewhat the some way about Cohadas' Chess book. Nonetheless, both books are invaluable to understanding their subjects.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jason Schneider

    While this book provided some insight into (as the title says) the life and music of Dinah Washington, it seemed tedious at times and to be more of an itinerary of her club dates. After having read the autobiographies of Anita O'Day and Rosemary Clooney, I suppose I was expecting to get more of a sense of Dinah as a person rather than where she played and with whom. Her life was cut short at age 39, though, so Dinah didn't have an opportunity to put her life on paper in her own words. Nadine Coh While this book provided some insight into (as the title says) the life and music of Dinah Washington, it seemed tedious at times and to be more of an itinerary of her club dates. After having read the autobiographies of Anita O'Day and Rosemary Clooney, I suppose I was expecting to get more of a sense of Dinah as a person rather than where she played and with whom. Her life was cut short at age 39, though, so Dinah didn't have an opportunity to put her life on paper in her own words. Nadine Cohodas has done an admirable job of research in compiling Dinah Washington's impressive recording and performance career (and marriages), and the book is worth the read just for that.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Whittaker

    good book about a great singer

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phylisha Stone

    Not just a woman, but a black woman with talent. Dinah was larger than life. Supporting multiple marriages, children and family members, etc. Dinah could be excessively generous on minute and a bitch the next. When it came to her career she didn't take any crap from anyone whether it be booking agents, musicians or even audiences. She was strong woman who demanded respect. Not just a woman, but a black woman with talent. Dinah was larger than life. Supporting multiple marriages, children and family members, etc. Dinah could be excessively generous on minute and a bitch the next. When it came to her career she didn't take any crap from anyone whether it be booking agents, musicians or even audiences. She was strong woman who demanded respect.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Davidson

    Dinah Washington was a fascinating musical artist, but the book read like a reporter's notebook dump. Lots of details about her schedule, but a failure in storytelling and depth. Dinah Washington was a fascinating musical artist, but the book read like a reporter's notebook dump. Lots of details about her schedule, but a failure in storytelling and depth.

  7. 4 out of 5

    santagati

    The subject alone makes the read worthwhile but the author seems condescending in both tone and spirit towards the Queen. She treats her talent and energies as a great, mysterious "other" and fails to acknowledge in many ways the study and work and effort that went into Ms. Washington's music. Still, I'd suggest the read if only as a gateway into Dinah Washington's life; it's nothing if not comprehensive, even if it misses the mark on her inner self. The subject alone makes the read worthwhile but the author seems condescending in both tone and spirit towards the Queen. She treats her talent and energies as a great, mysterious "other" and fails to acknowledge in many ways the study and work and effort that went into Ms. Washington's music. Still, I'd suggest the read if only as a gateway into Dinah Washington's life; it's nothing if not comprehensive, even if it misses the mark on her inner self.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Oh

    Wow! What a spitfire she was. This is the story of Dinah Washington who I have admired for years. I loved reading this book even though it was sometimes redundant. Her struggles with addiction to pills was her ulrimate downfall, dying of an overdose. What this book did very well was humanize Dinah sort of shattering the image of a perfect celebrity life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Guy

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Johnson

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chambers Stevens

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jac

  14. 5 out of 5

    Judi

  15. 5 out of 5

    Britt Traynahm

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chamoplan Fultoto

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Boughton

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill Dahl

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim Anderson

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Bell

  22. 5 out of 5

    Billy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kicha

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rich

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  28. 5 out of 5

    Florence Wetzel

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ben Kalman

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Carter

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