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Goodbye to a legend
January 20, 2012 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Etta James, jazz legend best known for "At Last," died today after a bout with leukemia and dementia, while her husband and sons were battling over her savings.
posted by tr33hggr (144 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Specklet at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by condour75 at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2012


well shit

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posted by elizardbits at 8:50 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2012


"At Last" our wedding song. I still can't hear it without tears welling up, and even more so now.

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posted by tr33hggr at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


*was*
posted by tr33hggr at 8:52 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:52 AM on January 20, 2012


Oh damn. I knew she was having like eleventy trillion terrible health problems, but damn.

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posted by shakespeherian at 8:52 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:53 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by bodywithoutorgans at 8:53 AM on January 20, 2012


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I first heard "At Last" as a young teenager on the great Northern Exposure soundtrack album and it's been on heavy rotation in my life ever since. The tension in those opening strings being so fully and completely relieved by her first "At last...." is an amazing piece of music.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by pwally at 8:55 AM on January 20, 2012


A true pioneer, and one of the all-time greats.

Godspeed, Ms. James.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:55 AM on January 20, 2012


I knew it was coming eventually, but, ugh. She's been a favorite of mine for years and years. We were lucky to have her around as long as we did.

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posted by Currer Belfry at 8:55 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Elly Vortex at 8:56 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by ghharr at 8:56 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by jadepearl at 8:57 AM on January 20, 2012



posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:57 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


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Here's it being played for the first dance with the Obamas
posted by desjardins at 8:57 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2012


Oh, dammit. What a voice, what a talent, what a legacy.

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posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by supermedusa at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by motty at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2012


(starts at 4:01)
posted by desjardins at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2012


I saw the article about her going into the hospital a couple weeks ago, and it didn't look good. But still:

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posted by zombieflanders at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by edgeways at 9:00 AM on January 20, 2012


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Take it to the limit. Feel that. When she sings "You know I've always been a dreamer", just gives me the chills.
posted by cashman at 9:00 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by it's a long way to south america at 9:00 AM on January 20, 2012


And the man credited with discovering here died Tuesday: Johnny Otis.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:01 AM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


nooooooooooooooooooooooo /vader

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posted by zomg at 9:01 AM on January 20, 2012


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One of the greats. "Tell Mama" is a song that will infuse you with happiness. It's like plugging yourself into a recharge station. Thanks for everything, Ms. James.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:03 AM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by dbiedny at 9:04 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Shoggoth at 9:06 AM on January 20, 2012


Cashman beat me to it. But here's another, longer version that gets me every single time I listen to it. And I've been known to listen to it 5 times in a row.


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Even though we knew it was coming, this really sucks.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:06 AM on January 20, 2012


BitterOldPunk, I was *just* thinking about "Tell Mama" when your comment showed up in preview. It really is a happiness infusion, that song.

For Etta, and for Johnny Otis:

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posted by bakerina at 9:06 AM on January 20, 2012


This is perhaps my favorite: I'd Rather Go Blind

Thank you, Miss Etta, for all the fabulous music. You added so much soul to my life!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:07 AM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


We'll always have Sweet Memories.

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posted by Fizz at 9:07 AM on January 20, 2012


If there is a heaven, that choir just got a whole hell of a lot better.

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posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:08 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by sonascope at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2012


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One of the best.
posted by iotic at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by sarahnade at 9:10 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Iridic at 9:11 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by entropicamericana at 9:12 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Gelatin at 9:12 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by box at 9:13 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by initapplette at 9:13 AM on January 20, 2012


My favourite albumn of all time is one I bought when I was 15: Etta James Rocks The House, recorded live at the New Era Club in Nashville in 1963. Those of you who know her from At Last, please give it a listen, and know her power. The title is just about literal.
posted by Diablevert at 9:14 AM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


That song that uses the very beginning of "Something's Got a Hold of Me" has been driving me crazy at how little of a great performance they use. She was so much more than that. I remember when she opened for The Rolling Stones. Rest Well Miss Etta
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posted by djrock3k at 9:15 AM on January 20, 2012


Guardian obit

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posted by Mister Bijou at 9:16 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Lynsey at 9:16 AM on January 20, 2012


At Last was my wedding song too. Thank you SO MUCH Ms. James.
posted by Dhertiiboi at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Halloween Jack at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2012


Oh, the world is a much poorer place today. Thank you Miss Etta, for everything.
posted by dejah420 at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2012


Some great mornin, when this life is over, I'll fly away

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posted by Jon_Evil at 9:18 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The AP article is pretty good.

Etta James' performance of the enduring classic "At Last" was the embodiment of refined soul: Angelic-sounding strings harkened the arrival of her passionate yet measured vocals as she sang tenderly about a love finally realized after a long and patient wait.
In real life, little about James was as genteel as that song. The platinum blonde's first hit was a saucy R&B number about sex, and she was known as a hell-raiser who had tempestuous relationships with her family, her men and the music industry. Then she spent years battling a drug addiction that she admitted sapped away at her great talents.
The 73-year-old died at Riverside Community Hospital, with her husband and sons at her side, De Leon said.
She was one of music's original bad girls.


And now there's dust in my eyes.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:18 AM on January 20, 2012



posted by xedrik at 9:19 AM on January 20, 2012


I'd Rather Go Blind
posted by marxchivist at 9:21 AM on January 20, 2012


"At Last" was also my wedding song, although in retrospect I think it was my wife's subtle way of taking a jab at me for waiting so long to pop the question.
posted by Hoopo at 9:21 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another of my favorites: Sunday Kind of Love. Another good wedding song.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:24 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:24 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by lalochezia at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by aerotive at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2012


I don't want to be disrespectful because of course she's amazing but...Northern Exposure soundtrack album?? I know what I'm looking for/listening to as soon as I get home today. And of course Etta James too.
posted by bquarters at 9:26 AM on January 20, 2012


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I love the first few lines of At Last. I swoooooooon.
posted by pink candy floss at 9:26 AM on January 20, 2012


She should be known for much, much more than "At Last," and should at least be known for "I'd Rather Go Blind" just as much, if not more.

Also, you should hear her cover of Randy Newman's "God's Song," just because it's terrifyingly awesome.
posted by raysmj at 9:27 AM on January 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I saw her in concert about ten years ago. She put on a great show. Anyone who never saw her live missed out.
posted by dfm500 at 9:28 AM on January 20, 2012


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We call my daughter Bernadette "Etta" for Etta James.
posted by drezdn at 9:30 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:33 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by MelanieL at 9:34 AM on January 20, 2012


I got to know Etta James' music as a teen because Johnny Carson liked to have her on his show quite often. She never sat and talked, she just came out, tore the place up and went back off the stage. She was great.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:37 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the greats.

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posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:37 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by gofargogo at 9:38 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Artichoke Dance Off!! at 9:40 AM on January 20, 2012


My favourite albumn of all time is one I bought when I was 15: Etta James Rocks The House, recorded live at the New Era Club in Nashville in 1963. Those of you who know her from At Last, please give it a listen, and know her power. The title is just about literal.

The performance of "What'd I Say" is greater than that of Ray Charles himself. Think about that for a moment.

She take her place among the immortals.

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posted by Trurl at 9:41 AM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by cooker girl at 9:42 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:42 AM on January 20, 2012


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Jazz singer James (4 letters)
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:43 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by robstercraw at 9:43 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Sphinx at 9:43 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by smirkette at 9:44 AM on January 20, 2012


Damn. She was one of my faves. She even managed to make "I Got You Babe" funky.

Between this, Jimmy Castor and Johnny Otis, it's a rough week for music.
posted by jonmc at 9:47 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by me3dia at 9:48 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by alynnk at 9:52 AM on January 20, 2012


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My momma is an Etta James superfan. I enjoy her, but I'm *really* sad for my mom today. She's playing a whole bunch of CDs very loudly at home right now. I'm stuck with headphones and youtube for another few hours.

Thanks to all you posting links to stuff of hers.
posted by DigDoug at 9:52 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Etta had one of those voices and flawless delivery that could make even a mediocre song special. And she had such a good ear she didn't pick many mediocre songs to start with.

Her answer song to Hank Ballard's "Work with Me, Annie", "The Wallflower" (aka "Roll With Me Henry") is one of my favorite R&B songs. Her version of "Security" is pretty killer too. Hell, they're all great.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:52 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by mosk at 9:54 AM on January 20, 2012


♪ ♫
posted by Minus215Cee at 9:55 AM on January 20, 2012


As a former wedding dj, I have to say that this is sad. And the only time I found my job even slightly cool was when I got to play 'At Last'.
posted by jake1 at 10:00 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or Frankie Valli's 'Cant Take My Eyes Off of You.
posted by jake1 at 10:03 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by vibrotronica at 10:03 AM on January 20, 2012


What a voice, what a life. Thank you for the music.
posted by Errant at 10:05 AM on January 20, 2012


Should've linked it in my original comment. But better late than never.

Etta James, "Tell Mama"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:14 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just listened to "At Last" yesterday. Thanks, Etta.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:31 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by trip and a half at 10:32 AM on January 20, 2012


Something's Got A Hold On Me

Hell yeah. A huge voice, expertly managed. Farewell, you rip-roaring siren.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:39 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the real greats. Thanks Etta.

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posted by spitbull at 10:41 AM on January 20, 2012


Damn.
posted by penduluum at 10:41 AM on January 20, 2012


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Thanks for everything, Miss Etta.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:44 AM on January 20, 2012


Also from Rocks the House

Money (That's What I Want)

Baby What You Want Me To Do

I Just Wanna Make Love To You

Ain't that Loving You Baby


Bonus
Randy Newman Cover: You Can Leave Your Hat On

Etta with her cousin Sugar Pie deSanto (a fine soul singer in her own right): In the
Basement

posted by Diablevert at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by Not The Stig at 10:51 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:57 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Renoroc at 10:57 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Lutoslawski at 10:59 AM on January 20, 2012


101. A hundred and one. Wow. Way to go, Miss James.
posted by item at 11:01 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Flood at 11:05 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by tommasz at 11:08 AM on January 20, 2012


During 2009 a concert in Seattle, the sharp-tongued singer created a uproar when she said that performer Beyonce was going to get her posterior "whooped" for performing James' 1961 hit "At Last" at President Obama's inaugural ball.

I wish she "whooped" Beyonce just for being Beyonce.

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posted by stormpooper at 11:15 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn.


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posted by Thorzdad at 11:18 AM on January 20, 2012


Loved her voice so very much.

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posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:19 AM on January 20, 2012


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One of the greats.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:20 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Pope Xanax IV at 11:20 AM on January 20, 2012


Saw her many years ago at the SF Blues Fest. She walked onstage, cooly surveyed the crowd, and annihilated us all with "Feel Like Breakin' Up Somebody's Home," especially when she turned around and shook her considerable booty. I was among the mesmerized.
posted by jleisek at 11:36 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by Navelgazer at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by sexyrobot at 11:40 AM on January 20, 2012


She never sat and talked, she just came out, tore the place up and went back off the stage...

If you had heard her onstage patter in concert, you would not have expected her to be talking on TV -- when last she played the Paramount theater here, six or seven years back, it was one of the most memorable concerts in Seattle ever.

She came out stylin' in a pantsuit and blonde boufant wig, clutching, with the longest candy coated metal flake fingernails ever, the handlebars of a personal transport device -- from the seat of which she sang her entire set, explaining later in the third person, something along the lines of "Now, it ain't because Miss James is sick, that she's riding this here go-kart, y'understand -- no, it's just because she got fat and she don't want to get all tired walking and standing all night on these poor ankles of hers...."

And, when while singing Tell Mama she got extra super double to the tenth power way low down and dirty, in a set speech therein, on the topic of of 'a woman's needs' as she started, with those three inch extended and lacquered nails, mind you, ever so lightly stroking her fingers up her thighs and crotch. Oh, to hear the crowd gasp, moan, whistle, stomp and cheer at that!

After that she reminisced about being a teenage singer on an R'n B caravan, riding in the back seat of a car with Johnny Guitar Watson and checking out his, ahem, unit --*bulging her eyes*-- before launching into a very soulful and heartfelt cover of his I Want to Ta-Ta Thank You, Baby.

Just about the bluest raunchiest performance I have ever seen and heard from anyone, and funny as hell, too, and easily the best concert I ever saw in the Paramount, save for the time I saw Johnny Guitar himself there in 1979. Unforgettable is the least I could say to describe it.
posted by y2karl at 11:45 AM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:48 AM on January 20, 2012


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posted by liza at 11:57 AM on January 20, 2012


Nobody Loves You Like Me
posted by shiny shoes at 11:58 AM on January 20, 2012


One of the first songs I put on my iPhone was Etta James' "At Last". To me, it is one of the most romantic songs ever written, and she is the only one who has ever really done it justice.

The way the opening words are drawn out to convey the singer's time spent waiting and wanting, and then the throaty satisfaction as her dreams come true are all reflected perfectly in her deliverance. Etta's voice is infused with passion, and the rapturous exultation in those ending notes speaks to something deep inside of me.

Every.Single.Time.

When I heard Beyonce was to sing the same song at Obama's inauguration, I was really excited. But her version really didn't work for me. Sure, her voice is strong, and her range is undoubtedly formidable, but she didn't do the song justice somehow. Maybe it was because she was nervous and performing for the President, and really wanted to make sure she hit every note right, but I didn't feel like she was living those words. Which, given the circumstances in which she sang the song, was all the more disappointing.
posted by misha at 12:16 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, we were another couple who had "At Last" as our first dance song at our wedding. After checking out various versions, we settled on the good old tried and true Etta James version. The way it came about was my now wife had a bunch of songs which I thought were too saccharine and pop, and she didn't like my idea of Talking Heads "This Must Be The Place". I happened to have Phoebe Snow's version of "At Last" from the "Rock and Soul Review" that Donald Fagan did, so I played it randomly, but not in relation to our discussion. My future wife perked up, said "hey, I like that song", so from there it was listening to samples of every version we could find, and Etta wins out, hands down.

So, thank you Etta. A madly in love couple who danced to you singing "At Last" the first time in their married life (and first marriage for both of us even at our advanced age) thanks you for recording the perfect song for us.

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posted by Eekacat at 12:16 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]



posted by Smart Dalek at 12:34 PM on January 20, 2012


Two Sides to Every Story.
If I Can't Have You.


posted by mazola at 12:38 PM on January 20, 2012


When I saw *ugh* Beyonce singing "At Last" for the Obamas, I figured it was because a) that Chess brothers movie was out, and this was the tie-in, and b) Miss Etta was incapacitated. Because who would ever trade the original for Beyonce's "Gosh, I'm so pretty and I can sing this song very accurately, just watch!" version?

For Johnny Otis and for Miss Etta James

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posted by the sobsister at 12:57 PM on January 20, 2012


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posted by jessian at 1:08 PM on January 20, 2012


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posted by BrotherCaine at 1:25 PM on January 20, 2012


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sad
posted by bjgeiger at 1:45 PM on January 20, 2012


She brought some beautiful music into the world. Thanks, Etta.

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posted by Lina Lamont at 2:05 PM on January 20, 2012


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posted by fizzix at 2:30 PM on January 20, 2012


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:39 PM on January 20, 2012


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RIP, Etta James.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:31 PM on January 20, 2012


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posted by robcorr at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2012


What a loss. *sigh*

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posted by Space Kitty at 4:13 PM on January 20, 2012


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"I got the will" off "Seven Year Itch" blew me away-
posted by runincircles at 4:33 PM on January 20, 2012


One of the Fillmore sound techs gave me her private recording of a two hour performance Etta did there.

She was having a good night. Damn that woman could sing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:56 PM on January 20, 2012


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posted by quietalittlewild at 5:08 PM on January 20, 2012


Baby What You Want Me To Do
Gosh, I didn't know she had covered that song. I like it almost as much as Jimmy Reed's version.

Well, now Ms. James can officially spin in her grave over Beyonce's desecration of "At Last".

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posted by fuse theorem at 5:20 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:51 PM on January 20, 2012


I always felt bad that she didn't get to sing At Last for the inauguration. It seemed like yet another insult in a life filled with them, her song was good enough but she wasn't. She never really seemed to ever get her full due, even with her considerable talent. She really was a blues singer and that left her in an odd place - she wasn't a soul singer like Aretha Franklin or a jazz singer like Ella Fitzgerald.
posted by shoesietart at 9:06 PM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Me and my SO loved her. It's rubbing salt on the wound that I heard the news on the day we broke up.

One of the remaining greats. Bye, Etta.

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posted by ersatz at 8:27 AM on January 21, 2012


She was a force. And she had a way with an unexpected cover: Purple Rain, Welcome to the Jungle.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:07 AM on January 21, 2012


Back in the day when soul music was our soundtrack, our top song was Only Time Will Tell. It seems never to show up on her lists or compilations and I haven't seen it here yet, so now, for your pleasure, what we thought of as the Real Queen of Soul and her best song.
posted by dpcoffin at 2:07 PM on January 21, 2012


Another cut from Etta James Rocks the House. I never thought I'd hear anyone do a better rendition of "What'd I Say?" than Ray Charles. Listen to Miss Etta do the impossible.
posted by marsha56 at 5:47 PM on January 21, 2012


Oops, sorry, there should have been a link to this.
posted by marsha56 at 5:48 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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