Deep Dive: Dinah Washington “The Bessie Smith Songbook”

I love Bessie Smith, but there are times where, no matter how much you love the sound, you wish you could hear those songs done faithfully, but recorded with technology that wouldn’t become available until after Smith’s passing in 1937. That’s where this set of performances from Dinah Washington fit in. By 1958, the studios definitely knew how to capture a big band, Dinah Washington definitely knew how to sing, and everyone in the know knew how much Bessie Smith’s songbook mattered.

As we navigate Dinah Washington’s performances, I love how true they are to Washington’s soul. They are full of that poise, humanity, and blues spirit that informs Dinah Washington’s entire discography. When working from this material, she can simply do no wrong. Every tune is a gem, and I’ve been struggling to decide what to play on the air. There’s magic about a great covering another great, a reverence that exudes a feeling of otherworldly energy across every take, and this afternoon, we’ll bask in that glow.

I hope you’ll tune in to today’s Afternoon Cruise. We set sail at 3 PM! – Sean McPherson

Thanks for checking this deep dive out! If you have music suggestions, contact me at

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