Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Etta James, R.I.P.

Etta James (1938 - 2012) one of the great blues voices, and one of the most individual talents - up there with Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone - has died after battling long illnesses. What a talent. One of the early singles I bought was her "Losers Weepers" and her great "I'd Rather Go Blind" which has been covered by so many (like Chicken Shack). Then of course there was "Tell Mama", "I Just Want to Make Love To You" (which had a new life when part of a television commercial) and of course "At Last".

Etta's story is a key strand in the story of American music in the 20th century. She was singing in a group aged 14, then marketed as an R&B and doo wop singer, after being discovered by Johnny Otis the "godfather of rhythm & blues", who coincidentally died a few days before her. After signing with Chess Records in 1960, James broke through as a traditional pop-styled singer, covering jazz and pop music standards. James's voice deepened over the years, as she battled various demons, moving her musical style into the genres of soul and jazz. She went on to win 6 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Legendary producer Jerry Wexler once called her "the greatest of all modern blues singers". Her music defied category, her legend can only grow, so when next having a drink let's toast Etta James.

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