Dinah Washington “Relax Max” (Mercury 70968, 1956)

Dinah Washington “Relax Max” (Mercury 70968, 1956)


She’s the most sited influence among soul singers of the 1960’s. Functioning as the bridge between Jazz, Gospel and the birth of Soul in a way that Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan don’t, I always worship at the altar of Dinah Washington. On her 91st Birthday, I know I’ll be spending my Saturday with her epic recording volume that spans 20 years. Hard Virgo Work indeed. As people swear by other women, I’m always going to hail the Queen of The Blues.

Granted, what I’m choosing to highlight today is perhaps more in her frivolous camp. To me it highlights the diversity of her strength as a recording artist. Her ability to find herself in the most disparate of recording studio situations is something to behold as her career went from mellow blues to big band to late 1950’s orchestrated pop music.

Still, within the Cha-Cha challenge of “Relax Max” lies the stamp of the best of Dinah; the tart yet ripe with affection vocal; the athletic and amazingly precise use of phrasing and that astonishing power to knock you out of your seat should she choose. It’s all bundled with a shady sense of humor that Dinah Washington couldn’t help but show. In most ways I’ve always idolized the fact that who she was on record was a clear reflection of the woman in the booth. In an era where most women, regardless of race, had to project veneers of demure respectability, Dinah would do none of the sort. Her artistic output radiates that.

Forever the Queen of The Blues, I hope her spirit knows it inspires daily. Happy Birthday Queen.


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