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JazzTimes 10: Intoxicating Tracks About Alcohol

Songs to choose when breaking out the booze

  1. Lou Donaldson: “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman” (Relaxing at Sea: Live on the QE2, Chiaroscuro, 2000)


Soul-jazz giant Lou Donaldson loved, in between dives into the gutbucket on his alto sax, to sing a blues. He had a high, gritty voice that fit the genre well and was remarkably charming to boot. “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman,” which Donaldson co-wrote with organist Leon Spencer, was a favorite vocal spotlight for the last 20 years of his career (he’s been retired since the early 2000s). On his final recording, a cruise date with Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, he refers to the blues as “suffering music.” But as he sings about his woman, whose defining characteristic is that she drinks whiskey always and everywhere (and puts it behind her ear instead of perfume), he’s clearly having a ball. Perhaps it’s because she’s not alone in her drinking habits: “She puts whiskey in her coffee/She puts whiskey in her tea/She puts whiskey in her whiskey/And she puts the rest of it into me!” he utters gleefully.

Preview, buy or download Relaxing at Sea: Live on the QE2 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.