'Dynamic' Dinah Lee deserves credit for being the only local Australasian artist to pick
up on the bluebeat craze and record in that idiom at the time. At the same time she
was the most successful and prominent Australasian female pop star of the Sixties.
Dinah Lee was born Diane Marie Jacobs in New Zealand. She drew much of her early
musical inspiration from black female singers of the early 1960's, like Millie Small and
Dee Dee Sharp. As we know, Millie Small is doubly significant. Her 1964 smash 'My
Boy Lollipop' was Island Records' first hit, and she was the first artist to have a major
In the early sixties, Dinah Lee changed her look. She got a page-boy haircut and
dressed in wild op-art designs with white leather boots. She began modelling around
this time, and her 'mod' wardrobe, makeup and hairstyle soon became her trademark.
'Do The Blue Beat', released in October 1964, was her third huge NZ hit. It was the
very first bluebeat recording made 'down under', and it was the hit that really took her to
the top on both sides of the Tasman Sea. It was another huge seller and chart success
for her in Australia. The fashion sense she brought to her pop career made Dinah Lee
the 'Queen of the Mods' and Australasia's most imitated female performer.
In early 1965 Dinah Lee taped three performances in Australia. One of these
performances was a concert with Millie Small. About this time Viking released the
Dance to the Blue Beat EP and this is now one of the most sought-after Dinah Lee
recordings. By the way, Dinah Lee recorded just a few bluebeat songs. She also
performed other styles, like rock 'n' roll, beat, soul and jazz.
American label Vee-Jay Records initially showed interest in releasing her material, but
this fell through, and her only American release, 'You Don't Talk About Love'/'Do The
Blue Beat', crept out on Vee-Jay's subsidiary label, Interphon. With no promotion, it
From America she went on to London in late 1965, where she hooked up with Chris
Blackwell, the founder of Island Records and champion of Jamaican music. How this
was arranged is unknown at present - possibly it came about via her meeting with
Millie Small in Melbourne. Dinah Lee cut four tracks for Island's subsidiary label
Aladdin, which released mainly slow soul songs by Jackie Edwards and Owen Grey.
Both Dinah Lee's Aladdin singles are pretty obscure these days, but the latter single
has generated interest with fans of the Northern Soul genre. In March 1966 Dinah Lee
did a second Australia / New Zealand tour with Millie Small.
Despite three years at the top, massive sales and continuing popularity in both
Australia and New Zealand, neither company renewed her recording contract. She
became a regular and perennially popular attraction on the club circuit and continued to
make regular TV appearances. Dinah Lee released three other singles during the
Do The Bluebeat/Kansas City, Viking VP 158 (1964)
Reet Petite/Do The Blue Beat, HMV EA 4648 (Australia) (1964)
The Birds And The Bees/He Can't Do The Bluebeat, Viking VP 172 (1965)
DANCE TO THE BLUEBEAT (EP), Viking VE 167 (1965)
INTRODUCING DINAH LEE, Viking VP 140 (1964)
THE SOUND OF DINAH LEE, Viking VP 149 (Australia: Columbia, OEX 9431)
THE MOD WORLD OF DINAH LEE Viking VP 195 (1966)