Baby Washington placed 15 records on the R&B charts between 1959-1975, and yet she never had the kind of crossover success that some of her contemporaries enjoyed. That’s not to say that Washington never hit the Pop charts, but she only had one Top 40 record there, and that is the record that’s featured in today’s column.
She was born Justine Washington in South Carolina, and grew up in Harlem. Her singing career began as a member of the Hearts, and she eventually she become a member of the Jaynetts, although she was long gone from the group by the time they had their smash hit, “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses.”
In 1957, Washington’s released “Everyday,” her first solo recording for J&S Records, the same label that she had recorded for while a member of the Jaynetts. By the following year she had moved on to Neptune Records, and it was there that she had her first hits.
Washington scored two hits for Neptune in 1959, and her solo career was off and running. “The Time” reached #22 on the R&B chart, and “The Bells” made it to #20. Two years later she hit the charts again with the #17 single “Nobody Cares.” On some of these early singles she was billed as Jeanette (Baby) Washington.
The Neptune hits behind her, Washington moved on to the prominent ABC Paramount label in 1961. She released two singles for the label but neither found any chart success. One of them however, “Let Love Go By,” later became a Northern Soul staple. Another year, another label as Washington moved on to Sue Records in 1962. It was there that she would have her biggest hit.
“That’s How Heartaches Are Made” reached #40 on the Billboard Pop chart in 1963, making it the only Top 40 Pop record that Washington ever had. In 1965 she scored her only Top 10 R&B hit with “Only Those In Love,” which reached #73 on the Pop chart. Washington’s other Sue releases included Chip Taylor and Jerry Ragavoy’s song “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face” (under the name Justine Washington), “The Clock,” and “It’ll Never Be Over For Me,” all released in 1964.
Washington put together a comeback in 1973 when her duet recording with Don Gardner, a cover of the Marvelettes “Forever,” was a Top 30 R&B hit. A solo follow-up that year, “I’ve Got to Break Away,” reached #32. The beginning of the disco era led to a decline in Washington’s career, as it did for many artists.
Aside from the one Top 40 record, Washington had no real crossover success. Her work was not unrecognized by her peers however. None other than Dusty Springfield proclaimed Washington her all-time favorite singer. Springfield even covered two of Washington’s songs, “That’s How Heartaches Are Made” and “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face.”