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JazzTimes 10: Intoxicating Tracks About Alcohol

Songs to choose when breaking out the booze

  1. Dinah Washington: “Me and My Gin” (Dinah Sings Bessie Smith, EmArcy, 1958)

Like Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith sang about the underground trade frankly. “Any bootlegger sure is a pal of mine,” went a famous line in “Me and My Gin.” Dinah Washington, both in the studio on her 1958 Dinah Sings Bessie Smith and in the superior live version at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival (included as a bonus track on the Dinah Sings Bessie CD release), changed it to “Any bootlegger, just show him a friend of mine”—absolving herself of crime 25 years after Prohibition’s repeal. (Selling alcohol was illegal; consuming it wasn’t.) But Washington maintains Smith’s drunken bravado—“Don’t mess with me, nobody, ’cause you will never win/I’ll fight the army and the navy if you just bring me my gin”—jazzed up by a sly, still blues-ridden big band, arranged and led by Melba Liston.

Preview, buy or download Dinah Sings Bessie Smith on Amazon!

Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.