Dinah Kaye was a one of the most distinctive and successful British jazz singers of her generation, and one of the few to make her mark in America where she was championed in the second half of the 1950s by Billy Daniels, supported Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, and Kay Starr, and worked with Louis Armstrong.
She had been singing for more than a decade by the time she crossed the Atlantic with a Decca recording contract to boost her profile in 1953. Born Kay Cumming to Scottish parents in Burma on February 2, 1924, she spent her childhood in Edinburgh and entered singing competitions before becoming a regular on the stages of the city’s jazz clubs.
On moving to London in 1943, she became resident singer with Harry Parry’s orchestra and toured with them before leaving for a two-year spell in the Netherlands. On her return to the capital, she took up a residency at Fischer’s jazz club and was a regular at Edmundo Ros’ Coconut Grove, the Cafe de Paris and Savoy Club. She worked with the leading bands of the day, including Nat Allen, Terry Lightfoot, and Cyril Stapleton.
It was Ros who persuaded her to record My Jealous Eyes, the song that caught the attention of Decca and Billy Daniels and took her to America for four years. She was equally popular in Europe and at home again, from 1962, the same year she won a Silver Salver representing the UK in the Polish International Song Contest. She made regular appearances on radio – notably in Easy Beat, Saturday Club, and Humphrey Lyttelton’s long-running weekly show The Best of Jazz, – and on television.
She died, aged 87, in Edinburgh on September 12.