Ruth Lee Jones was born in Alabama but grew up primarily in Chicago. Like many singers of her time, she was actively singing in gospel groups. Ruth also played the piano and started singing in clubs while still a teenager. While appearing at the same club as Billie Holiday, Ruth began using the stage name Dinah Washington.
In 1944 she recorded her first singles and two of them made the top ten on the R&B charts. Blow Top Blues was recorded with Lionel Hampton in 1946 and crossed over to the pop charts as well. Dinah had another 30 top ten R&B hits over the next twenty years, two more of which also reached #22 and #23 on the Hot 100.
A song written by a Mexican musician was rewritten with English lyrics in 1934 and covered by Dinah in 1959. What a Diff’rence a Day Makes reached #4 on the Hot 100 and was the start of a string of hit records. She recorded two duets with Brook Benton that got into the top ten as well.
September In The Rain was first recorded in 1937 when three different versions charted. The song had a second life in 1948-1949 when two more versions charted. Dinah covered the song in late 1961 and her version reached #23 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the R&B chart.
And for the first time in her career, Dinah’s recording charted in the UK, where it reached #35. That may sound unimportant, but a quartet that was auditioning for a contract with Decca Records played the song at their audition in 1962.
Somebody at Decca was asleep at the switch, and they failed to sign the Beatles. Maybe it was because Ringo wasn’t in the group yet.
Dinah only made the UK charts once more. She died in 1962 from taking a combination of secobarbital and amobarbital, but her music lived on. In 1952 she recorded Mad About The Boy. That recording was used for a Levi’s Jeans commercial and was subsequently released as a single and reached #41 in the UK in 1992, about forty years after it was recorded!