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Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington by Nadine Cohodas

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To date, the great female singers have fared extremely poorly in the biography stakes. Though there have been several worthwhile volumes devoted to Billie Holiday, we’ve yet to see a truly satisfying tome about Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald or Carmen McRae-and if Anita O’Day, Rosemary Clooney and Nina Simone hadn’t had the gumption to lay open their roller-coaster lives in gutsy autobiographies, their legacies, too, would remain underdocumented. It seemed Dinah Washington was sure to suffer the same inconspicuous fate. Since Washington’s tragically premature death in 1963, at age 39, few books have surfaced, most notably Jim Haskins’ thinly unsatisfying Queen of the Blues from 1987. Fortunately, though, Washington’s remarkable but too-brief career, along with her tempestuous personal life (seven husbands, plus endless in-between lovers, in two decades) get deservingly detailed, indeed exhaustive, coverage in Nadine Cohodas’ impressive, 450-page portrait.

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