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Dinah Washington: 'Unforgettable'

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Hi, I'm A.B. Spellman, and that's the unmistakable voice — or should I say, Murray Horwitz — the unforgettable voice of Dinah Washington.

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: You should say both, A.B. — unforgettable and unmistakable. But the name of the CD is Unforgettable and it's our second Dinah Washington entry in the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library.

SPELLMAN: And, there may be more, right? But, I get to do the next one, Murray, because Dinah Washington is a song stylist who fit right in the jazz world, and always brought a lot of the blues to whatever she sang.


HORWITZ: That's very true here, A.B., even though, everything about this CD screams 1960. It conjures up supper clubs, cocktail lounges, cocktail dresses, and suits with skinny ties and narrow lapels.


HORWITZ: And a couple of these tunes were really bit hits for Dinah Washington, including the amazing 'This Bitter Earth.' Nearly all the tunes are ballads, and they're all about loneliness, about women wronged, and yet always hoping for that good man to come to whom they can offer their great gift: complete devotion.

SPELLMAN: Well, you see, she didn't have a happy life. But as soulful and bluesy as she was, she always brought a great musicianship and control to her singing.


HORWITZ: Nowadays, some people criticize jazz, especially jazz singers, for always sounding the same or being in the same groove. Well, you have to say that these treatments sure are different. And although, she has influenced scores of people, nobody ever sang quite like Dinah Washington.


SPELLMAN: The CD is Unforgettable by Dinah Washington on the Mercury label.

HORWITZ: For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And, I'm A.B. Spellman.

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A. B. Spellman
Murray Horwitz