Mother’s Day…Dinah’s Biggest Fan

My mother loved life and lived it joyously.  She loved to be around people, she loved to laugh and though she didn’t do it very well, she loved to sing. I still remember the sound of Mom’s singing voice as she was in the kitchen or at her sewing machine.  However, even when I was a child, her singing sounded unusual to me. It was a bit affected and nasal.  It sounded nothing like her speaking voice.  I often wondered, but never asked, where in the world did it come from?

I also knew from an early age that my mom was a fan of Dinah Washington. Though Mom was not a big LP buyer, I noticed that there were three Dinah Washington albums in the storage side of the stereo console; more than any other artist.  Mom also spoke often of hearing Dinah live back when she lived in Chicago.  I never bothered to listen to those records – they belonged to my parents, so they had to be corny.  Besides, one of them was a “Memorial Album”, so this Dinah lady was dead. Why should I listen?

Mom died of breast cancer when I was 28.  I was a nascent jazz fan by then, but I was yet to develop the love for the classic female vocalists (Sarah, Ella, Billie, Anita, etc.), that I now possess.  Not too long after Mom’s death, I was on a therapeutic Tower Records run, with a good friend, Mike, who was/is a big fan of vocalists. One of the things he picked up was a 2-LP Dinah Verve Collection.

We got back to his place to have a few beers and listen to our spoils. The first thing he dropped on the turntable was the Dinah album. After the brief swinging horn line she began to sing:

If they asked me; I could write a book…”

I stopped talking and I listened intently. All at once it hit me.  That was the sound that Mom was looking for, but never quite achieved.  Consciously, or not, each time my mother sang, she was paying tribute to her favorite vocalist: “Miss D”.

From that night on, Dinah Washington became  my favorite jazz vocalist.  The others are all great in their own way, but Dinah – well, she’s special…

Happy Mother’s Day y’all.

6 Responses to “Mother’s Day…Dinah’s Biggest Fan”

  1. Dinah has become my favorite too. It was her epic version of Blue Skies that did it, but since then I have listened to much more and love her style.

  2. Man..this is some great music!! She’s truly a storyteller. Between this and the piece you posted with Jimmy Heath talking about Ben Webster and learning lyrics..I’ve been blessed, inspired, and encouraged!!

    Thanks bro!

    Sending something your way soon

  3. This is great! I love that first tune!

  4. Curt,

    What a nostalgic, beautifully touching tribute to your mother, as well as the talented Dinah Washington. Enjoying the listen as I type this.

    -Deborah E

  5. Reblogged this on Curt's Jazz Cafe and commented:

    I posted this last Mother’s Day and I felt that it was time to revive it. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

  6. “My mother loved life and lived it joyously.” Eight little words can say so much. That’s a beautiful tribute.

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