Forgotten Jazz Diva Gets Recognition with New CD by Mharlyn Merritt
May 4, 2023 - by MyChesCo
PHILADELPHIA, PA —Mharlyn Merritt and JamAll Productions announced a new album, I Owe It to Dakota from vocalist Mharlyn Merritt. The single, Make It Easy on Yourself, composed by the late Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David, drops on Burt Bacharach’s birthday, May 12, 2023.
THE DAKOTA PROJECT
Photo of Dakota Staton (1965) Courtesy Bilsen, Joop van for Anefo -  Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau
THE DAKOTA STATON STORY
- She was born in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA on June 3, 1930
- Dakota studied classical voice at the Filion School of Music in Pittsburgh, PA
- Began singing as a teenager with the top band in Pittsburgh at the time, the Joe Wespary Orchestra
- “Discovered” singing at the Baby Grand Club, in Harlem by the Director of Artists and Repertoire for Capital Records, Dave Cavanaugh and signed to Capitol Records
- Her first single for Capitol was released in 1955. It was a bluesy, pop number called, “What Do You Know About Love?” which led to her being voted “Most Promising Newcomer” of the Year by DownBeat magazine
- In 1957 Dakota Staton was catapulted to fame by the release of her first album, ‘The Late Late Show” on the Capitol label. It was an instant hit with the title song being a break-out favorite.
- She was the first to record Errol Garner’s,” Misty” in 1957, almost two years prior to the Johnny Mathis release
- During her decades long career Dakota Staton worked with Nelson Riddle, Benny Carter, George Shearing and Groove Holmes.
- In 1958, after her marriage to trumpet player, composer and activist Talib Dawud, she converted to Islam. She changed her name legally to Aliyah Rabia but continued to perform as Dakota Staton
- She recorded almost 30 critically acclaimed albums on various labels including Capitol, Columbia, Verve and Muse.
- Dakota Staton is featured, along with Abbey Lincoln and others in the 2000 documentary, Jazz Women directed by Gabriella Morandi
- In 2001 Staton was inducted into the Gallery of Stars at Pittsburgh’s Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre with a commemorative star on the sidewalk outside the theatre
- On April 10, 2007, Dakota Staton died from a stroke at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan