Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, January 20, 2012

Etta James

Etta James has passed away at the age of 73.  The cause of death was leukemia.  I’m glad I got a chance to see her in concert — Inn of the Beginning, Cotati, CA, 1980.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President Terry Stewart said:

“Etta James was a pioneer. Her ever-changing sound has influenced rock and roll, rhythm and blues, pop, soul and jazz artists, marking her place as one of the most important female artists of our time.  From Janis Joplin to Joss Stone, an incredible number of performers owe their debts to her. There is no mistaking the voice of Etta James, and it will live forever.”

Her hits included “Dance With Me Henry,” “At Last,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” “Stop the Wedding” and “It Must Be Love.”

Her career started in the early 1950s when she was discovered by Johnny Otis, who coincidentally passed away just yesterday at age 90.  Johnny Otis was best known for his 1960 (give or take a year) hit “Willie and the Hand Jive.”  But he was a huge behind-the-scenes player all through the 1950s and ‘60s.

Beyoncé played the role of Etta James in the 2008 movie Cadillac Records.  In response to Etta James’ death, Beyoncé released the following statement:

“This is a huge loss. Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime. Playing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist. When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph. Her deeply emotional way of delivering a song told her story with no filter. She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed.”


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnny Otis was a dark skinned Greek who married a black woman and never looked back. Even on the road with his band during Jim Crow days, he never used his white skin for benefit. He didn’t drink from white fountains, he went through the back door, and ate with the rest of the band where ever blacks were supposed to eat.

If you listened to his radio show he always talked about the racism behind the music, how the musicians were treated, the conditions they has to live under, and how little credit they were given by the white rockers who imitated them. I have a conservative friend who always complained about Otis show, seems he wanted just the music without the racial commentary (ie Music without Guilt). But as a outsider looking in, Otis never wanted people to forget what conditions created this music. BTW my friend was really surprised when I told him Otis isn’t black!

There will never be another Etta James, and partially because no one is even trying, Beyonce never sang that way before, and since the corporate takeover of black music old time southern-ish, gospel, bluesy singers like James, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Millie Jackson, Betty Everette, etc., are not getting the recognition they deserve because “it has been decided” that times and styles have changed. Etta James would have never made it today. Record companies would have told her to sound more “Urban”and not so “Country”, maybe Rap a little, and Simon Crowell would have called her too fat.

The Death of Rhythm & Blues


Flags Half Mast

January 20, 2012 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Mr. Charleston said...

I just left a comment at JJ's about Sweet Etta. She was a giant and a part of my life for just about as long as I can remember.

January 20, 2012 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

At Last is a classic. Many others recorded that song, but Etta James owned it. A fine singer who had quite a career. She leaves a fine legacy of recordings.

January 20, 2012 at 11:58 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

An amazing voice. I saw her in 1991 in Houston. I'm glad I did. Sad to see her go.

January 21, 2012 at 1:54 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Keith Jarret is in that same ethnic category. Everyone assumed he was a light-skinned black, but he's actually a combination of several Latino and Eastern European ethnic groups. I hadn't realized until the article 2 days ago that Johnny Otis had played such a huge role. I mostly knew him from Willie and the Hand Jive and I'd heard of his son Shuggie Otis.

You're right, there won't be any replacements for Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, etc. And yes, if they were coming up today, they'd be told to add a little hip-hop, maybe some synthesizers...

Mr. C: You're right, she was a giant.

SW: She definitely has a fine legacy of recordings.

Carlos: I'm glad you got a chance to see her in person.

January 21, 2012 at 4:56 PM  

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