Last Friday, Automattic released WordPress 4.1, but the big new is they named it after a woman jazz artist.
Named for Dinah Washington, version 4.1 is a minor release coming hot on the heels of major version “Benny” 4.0. But after 22 male named releases, it is a major breakthrough at Team WordPress to finally name their 3rd female version.
Still, to the folks at Automattic, Dinah didn’t rate enough to produce a Brit-narrated video trailer overdubbed with her music, like the male-named versions have gotten. At the the WordPress announcement page, ‘ol Dinah was lucky to get a Wikipedia link attached to her name.
Yet, it’s a sign of progress, so I won’t complain.
If you’ve read my posts lately. you know that I’m a big-mouthed feminist jazz fan who has been prodding WordPress for over a year about the gender inequity of their named versions, starting with WordPress 3.7 and All That Jazz Naming.
Since then, they’ve named every single release after jazz dudes which prompted me to post rants like, WordPress 3.8 Lacks Genius of Charlie Parker and WordPress Disses Jazz Women Again with Version 3.9: Jimmy Smith
After my extreme exasperation with WordPress 4.0 “Benny” I took the CNN tact and posted the question, Does Matt Mullenweg Have a Problem with Women?
I’m not sure if that last post was the final kicker, but 3 months later, looky here: a version called “Dinah!”
In the kitchen with Dinah
Dinah Washington was not the biggest jazz vocalists of the last century, but she was probably the most versatile. Her distinctive voice was sharp and gritty, with perfect enunciation, which made her sound tough and strong. In that way, Washington reminds me of Shirley Bassey, the voice behind several James Bond theme songs.
Washington started out as Ruth Lee Jones in Chicago, playing piano and singing in a church choir. From 1942-46, she fronted a band run by xylophonist Lionel Hampton, who suggested her name change.
What made Washington unique, and controversial, was her comfort with a range of musical styles. From 1948 to 1955, Washington sang blues, standards, novelties, pop covers, even country like Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart.” In later years, she was accompanied by lush orchestrations in the style of Ray Charles.
Her breakthrough hit, “What a Difference a Day Make,” came out in 1959 and won her won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance
Tragically, Washington died in 1963 from an accidental overdose of diet pills at the young age of 39. If she’d survived, who knows what styles she might have interpreted in the swinging 60s and 70s.
Does WordPress 4.1 suit Dinah?
While “Dinah,” the WordPress version, doesn’t really match the range of this great singer, it tries.
The biggest development is Distraction Free Writing Mode, which would have been better called, Medium Mode, for all its similarities to that other blogging platform.
I’m personally not one to write in WordPress, preferring instead the offline features of Word. Having said that, typing this post in Distraction Free mode is a nice pleasure, and watching it Saving Draft constantly is a comfort. If you navigate away from the page without clicking Update, WordPress 4.1 will give you an auto restore when you open the post again. That’s nice.
Just in time for 2015, WordPress 4.1 also includes a new theme called Twenty Fifteen. It’s clean and minimalistic and designed to be mobile friendly for clear reading on all devices. Again, it looks a lot like Medium.
In Plugins>New you’ll notice a number of suggested plugins presented to you, based on the plugins you’ve installed in the past. These recommendations include the plugins I’ve already installed.
In WordPress 4.1, you can embed Vine videos as easily as you can YouTube ones.
Log out everywhere
I had no idea I couldn’t go to my profile and log out, but now we can.
What a difference a version makes
WordPress 4.1 is hardly an earth shaker of a version, but does has some lovely features that are distinctive and versatile, and in that way it’s somewhat reminiscent of Dinah Washington.
I’m certain WordPress 4.1 will rank highly among Ms Washington’s honors, which include her image on a US postage stamp, as well as the park in Chicago, and the avenue and cultural arts center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that are named for her.
So, thank you, Matt Mullenweg, for finally acknowledging the feminine side of jazz. Was that so hard?