In the pantheon of American R&B vocals, “What A Difference A Day Makes” stands high on the list of master works with the late Dinah Washington’s 1959 Grammy winning version (for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance) being among the finest examples. The song was also Dinah’s first Top Ten hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard charts.
Originally titled “What a Diff’rence a Day Made”, the song was originally written in Spanish by María Grever, a Mexican songwriter, in 1934. It was titled “Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado” (“When I Return To Your Side”). The song is now typically known in English as “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes”. That missing “E” shows up in most later versions. The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams, and was played by Harry Roy & his Orchestra. The most successful early recording was back in 1934 by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey of big-band fame.
Dinah Washington (1924 – 1963) in 1952 (age 28).
The song has been covered by a long and varied list of major performers including: Vaughn Monroe, Diana Ross, Sarah Vaughan, Cher, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Fender, Edie Gorme, Bobby Darin, Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, and Dean Martin.
[ Trivia Note: Diana Ross recorded it in 1972 but it wasn’t released for 34 years until 2006 when her album “Blue” was discovered in the back of the Motown vaults.]
I’ve included Dinah’s version below along with a sampling of alternate performances.
- Dinah Washington
- Esther Phillips
- Aretha Franklin
- Sarah Vaughan
- Dick Haymes
- Arthur Prysock