- 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.