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Dinah Washington: A Forgotten Legend

Jazz music is a genre that established itself within the African-American community in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jazz music origination comes from the interpretations of American classical music that was mixed with the rhythm and beats of African culture, but also some interpretations from the folk songs that African-American slaves sung.

Prominent jazz artist such as Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, and Billie Holiday are always meationed, but why is Dinah Washington’s accomplishments never talked about within our history?


Dinah Washington was born as Ruth Lee Jones on August 29, 1924 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but did not certainly grow up here.

Once she was around the age of three, her family decided to move to Chicago to purse ministry at a Baptist church. Dinah’s singing career can be pin pointed to her Baptist church where she sang in the gospel choir, and soon began directing the choir when she became of age, and all while still attending school. The mentors around her new she had something special when she sang lead for the first female singers group founded by Sallie Martin, whom also founder the Gospel Singers Convention.

When Dinah was fifteen she began to perform in Chicago’s nightclubs owned by such prominent people as Dave Rhumboogie and Fats Waller. The jazz industry really sparked Dinah mind when she saw famous jazz singer Billie Holiday in concert, and from that point on it was history.

One day Dinah took a chance and performed at the same jazz bar that sparked her interest in jazz music. The owner was so impressed that he hired her to perform there every night.

Dinah’s first honor came from the none other Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where her song, “ TV is The Thing (This Year)” was inducted in for being a song that had a strong influence on the rock and roll industry. After this honor, the Grammy’s honored Dinah where she became so prominent with her songs Unforgettable, Teach Me Tonight, and What A Difference A Day Makes, that soon in 1973 she was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Other honors that Dinah Washington carries are that famous soul singer Aretha Franklin dedicated her album named Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington, to Dinah Washington in 1964. Also in 2005, Chicago’s Board of Commissioners renamed a park after her near the home she grew up in.

Going back to Washington’s birthplace, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, she also received such honors as the 30th Avenue in Alabama was renamed as Dinah Washington Avenue, and a hardware building was also dedicated in honor of her name.


If I could personally meet Ms. Dinah Washington now in this day in age, I would personally thank her for giving black women a voice in a voiceless would.

Ms. Washington paved a way for such artist as Aretha Franklin, Shaka Khan, and Etta James. A powerhouse is the best word I could describe Ms. Washington to be, and a powerhouse is what she most defiantly created. Dinah Washington is the definition a beauty grace, but also mixed with a little bit of spunk, and a whole lot of personality.

Thank You to the incredible Dinah Washington for being a role model for the generations that have already passed, but also for the ones to come.


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Jasmine Fain

OK State '19

  Is a Senior at the BRIGHTEST campus in the nation Oklahoma State University. She is a Professional Writing major with a Minor in Linguistics. Check out her articles each week to keep up to date on the many fun things that OSU has to offer. In your spare time also check out her blog LIVINGWITHJ to catch a preview of her life! 
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