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IN-DEPTH
SONG HOME COVER VERSIONS YOUR VIEWS
"Mad About The Boy"
Dinah Washington
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Dinah Washington

Written by the celebrated songwriter and playwright Noel Coward, "Mad About The Boy" appeared in the 1932 revue Words and Music.

Produced by Charles B. Cochran the revue followed Coward's successes with Private Lives and Bitter-Sweet and there were similar aspirations for Words and Music. It opened at Manchester Opera House for a trial run but on the second night the conductor / musical director resigned and a completely inexperienced Coward had to pick up the baton. The show later moved to the Adelphi Theatre but not for as long as it had originally been hoped for.

Dinah Washington
"Words & Music is an overwhelming success."


However it did have a new lease of life eight years later but with a different location and name. This New York production starred Bea Lillie and was called Set To Music. It now transpires that there had been an extra verse written for this with a businessman sitting in an office, but was cut as was deemed far too daring for its day.

Noel Coward was the quintessential Englishman so it is rather ironic that the singer who is most closely associated with "Mad About The Boy" is the American Jazz singer Dinah Washington. Nicknamed 'Queen of the Blues' she was born in 1924 in Alabama before moving to Chicago. Endowed with perfect pitch and a unique vocal timbre, she first used these talents playing piano and singing in the church choir which led to her joining gospel outfit the Sallie Martin Quartet. Washington soon found the group too restrictive professionally and socially and joined the Lionel Hampton band. They met in a club in Chicago and he is one of the various people who claim to have given Dinah Washington (nee Ruth Jones) her name.

Lionel Hampton
"I don't like that name Ruth Jones."


It’s easy to imagine a far more exuberant tune to such a witty lyric, but the sun never bursts through here. A recurring minor sixth creates a blue motel landscape, intensified by some aching string figures (Brahms cello for the second verse, film noir violins in the third). Even the more expansive chords of the soul-searching middle section still lead slavishly back to the uncomfortable emotions of this tortured attraction.
Dominic King


Washington's most popular songs were 'loser's songs' that people could identify with, such as the unrequited love in "Mad About The Boy". The meanings of the songs were very important to her and she always sang with feeling, claiming that "when you get inside a tune the soul should come out". Washington's shorter version, which misses out the first couple of verses, was arranged by Quincy Jones who had worked on a lot of her tunes. It was recorded for the Mercury label in her native Chicago in March 1952. It appeared later on various albums such as Dinah Washington, 50 Greatest Hits and AmericanLegend. Yet the song was brought to a whole new generation when it was used in a jeans ad in 1992 and subsequently entered the Top 50 in the British charts.

Dinah attacks the song with her most cutting tone ...


Russell Davies

  Listen to Russell Davies on the song

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