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Posts tagged "Etta James"

Hers is an extraordinary story – her mother was a prostitute, she didn’t know her father, for years she was a heroin addict. When I first heard her, I didn’t know anything about that. I must have been about 14, and a bit of a grunger, when in the jazz section of the HMV on Oxford Street, surrounded by musos, I bought two records in a two-for-a-fiver deal. One was by Ella Fitzgerald and one was by Etta James. I just loved the way she looked, really – her curves and her catty eyes, and one of my cousins was a hairdresser so I asked her if she’d do me an Etta James beehive.

By then, of course, I’d listened to her record as well, and that had a huge influence on me. Everything she sings – you believe her, even if she never wrote a word of it herself. I saw her live in New York not so long ago: extraordinary. There she was, at the age of 71, singing ‘I want to ta ta you, baby’ – almost groping herself, as if the meaning wasn’t clear enough already. She just has so much attitude.

I met her backstage after the show, very briefly. My mind went completely blank. I didn’t know what to say. Afterwards, I was crying my eyes out.

Adele, on Etta James (via The Guardian’s American Legends series, Jan. 2010)

Etta’s influence on Adele? Oh yeah, it’s there - and it goes beyond the beehive. One of our personal favorites among Etta covers is Adele’s take on “Fool That I Am.”

Etta James, the singer who turned “At Last” into a multi-generational standard and was an acknowledged influence on singers from Janis Joplin to Melissa Etheridge and Christina Aguilera, is gone not long after her voice was quieted.

To celebrate her legacy, we pulled together seven modern covers of “At Last.” But of course, James sang it the best, even as she aged. Watching her 2007 performance in the clip above, this much is true.

RIP Etta, you fiercely soulful creature.