Dinah Washington (August 29, 1924 – December 14, 1963) was a blues, R&B and jazz singer. Because of her strong voice and emotional singing, she is known as the "Queen of the Blues". Despite dying at the early age of 39, Washington became one of the most influential vocalists of the twentieth century, credited among others as a major influence on Aretha Franklin. She is a 1986 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her family moved to Chicago while she was still a child. As a child in Chicago she played piano and directed her church choir. She later studied in Walter Dyett's renowned music program at DuSable High School. At 16 as Ruth Jones, she toured the United States' black gospel circuit with Roberta Martin accompanying her at the piano. There was a period when she both performed in clubs as Dinah Washington while singing and playing piano in Sallie Martin's gospel choir as Ruth Jones.
Her penetrating voice, excellent timing and crystal-clear enunciation added her own distinctive style to every piece she performed. While making extraordinary recordings in jazz, blues, R&B and light pop contexts, Washington refused to record gospel music despite her obvious talent in singing it. She believed it wrong to mix the secular and the spiritual, and after she had entered the non-religious professional music world she refused to include gospel in her repertoire. She began performing as a teenager in 1942 and soon joined Lionel Hampton's band. There is some dispute about the origin of her name. Some sources say the manager of the Garrick Stage Bar gave her the name Dinah Washington, while others say Hampton selected it.