Lilieblue's Tribute to Dawn Hampton the DJ

Yehoodi's own Heather Flock (aka Lilieblue), shared a beautiful remembrance of Dawn Hampton at the Golden Tribute to her on Saturday. Dawn became part of the regular team of DJ's at the Frim Fram Jam on Thursdays, thanks to support from Heather and others. Heather shares to story of how that happened, but as she says, it's more the story about two friends who got together to listen to records and gossip.

She gave us permission to reproduce it here. Enjoy.


I was asked to tell you a story about DJing with Dawn, and I will tell you how it happened and what I learned, but here is a spoiler, this is really a story about how two friends got together to listen to records and gossip.

I first asked Dawn if she would be interested in becoming a DJ in her 83rd year of life. She had great taste in music, Ryan Swift and I wanted to cultivate the roster of female DJs at Frim Fram and also wanted to help support our friend, Ms. Hampton, who was always looking for a way to earn some bread.

At first she didn’t think so. She didn’t have the music put together, didn’t know the names of songs. I said I would do the legwork and push play, whatever she wanted. She was in.

Starting the library was easy. New Testament Count Basie? Select all. Sometimes she would show up at Frim Fram with the names of tunes scribbled on a piece of paper. She didn’t know the names of a lot of songs - she said to call people. Call Tomo, Call Manu, Andrew D’Angelo, Ryan Swift. And they were so generous with their music - their memory of her taste - soon- between us all - I had enough to get started. And so we began.

The first couple times we DJd she sat next to me with spreadsheets of all the tunes organized by Title, Artist and beats per minute. I’d ask, “What’s next?” and nine times out of ten the answer was (shrug) So I just started picking songs that I thought would please her. I would push play. Wait. And then look over at her. Sometimes a shrug, sometimes a nod, sometimes a thumbs up or a high five, and sometimes she just stood right up on the little step stool to watch the dance floor. She loved to watch you when you were moved to dance.

Over the years she DJd at Frim Fram, at the New York Swing Dance Society, Midsummer Night Swing and lately the Classic Westie dances - and we added to the library all the time. Here is what I learned:

She liked men. Earl Hines, Ray Anthony, Harry James, Jay McShann, Buddy Johnson, Duke Ellington, John Dokes, Illinois Jacquet, Ron Sunshine, Jimmy Whitherspoon, Joe Williams, George Gee, Johnny Hodges, Junior Mance, Lou Rawls, Ray Charles, Sam Taylor, Sy Oliver, Count Basie, Count Basie, Count Basie.

She loved women. Little Esther, Big Mama Thornton, Lavern Baker, Helen Humes, Barbara Morrison, Ernestine Anderson, Alberta Hunter, Julia Lee, Linda Hopkins, Aretha, Dinah, Big Maybelle.

She lived the blues. C Jam Blues, Blues for Stephanie, Buns Blues, Bootie’s Blues, Blues Around the Clock, Blues Plus Four, Evil Blues, Confessin the Blues, Every Day I Have the Blues, Blues in the Bucket.

She loved a crescendo, a shout, vibrato, music that shook you to the core, made you move, felt like victory. There was no noodling, no navel gazing, no soporific downers. Raging heartache, unabashed joy, deep deep sorrow. Nothing in between. Nothing.

Since she has gone, every time I am in the DJ booth, I play a song just for her. I push play. I wait. Turn to look. And then I watch you dancing.