Siren Dinah Washington Sings “This Bitter Earth”

Oh, the glorious sounds of Dinah Washington. I sat upright one afternoon when I heard the words and notes of “This Bitter Earth.”

Ms. Washington was born in 1924 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She left behind a powerful and enduring legacy of her torch songs when she died in 1963 of a drug overdose. Her albums spanned from 1950 to 1967. Listen to the full range of her artistry with her 1999 box set titled “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.

Her haunting torch song  “This Bitter Earth” (1960) was on the movie soundtrack of Killer Sheep, a film of African Americans set in Watts in Los Angeles during the 1970s. The song hit #1 on the R&B chart for one week and was #24 on the pop chart in 1960.

Listen to Ms. Washington sing:

The lyrics to “This Bitter Earth” are as beautiful as the melody:

This bitter earth
What fruit it bears
What good is love
That no one shares
And if my life is like the dust
That hides the glow of a rose
What good am I
Heaven only knows

This bitter earth
Can it be so cold
Today you’re young
Too soon your old
But while a voice
Within me cries
I’m sure someone
May answer my call
And this bitter earth
May not be so bitter after all

Ms. Washington, you are remembered in this time when environmentalism is part of the our common parlance. This bitter earth . . .

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6 responses

  1. Beautiful song, beautiful voice, beautiful message…and I really like who ever had the idea to put the song to the Max Richter music (which was the same music used so memorably in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island).

  2. I woke up with a phrase from this song playing in my head. The phrase was “and this bitter earth may not be so bitter after all”. Mind you, I have not heard the song in 40 plus years. I wasn’t sure if the singer was Dinah Washington or Nancy Wilson before I looked it up here. I do remember the soulful screams of agreement back in 1960 when it was released and how the bars were filled with tears of its truth.

    I also remember how most people remember it by its sadness and how I remember it by its message which was just soulful to me.

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