Etta James: the immortal diva

Sadly, it often takes someone’s death before their genius and talent can be fully appreciated. A lot of this obviously has to do with all the retrospection that takes place on such occasions, and, in the case of famous musicians, the reflex action of pulling out their greatest hits for the inevitable bittersweet musical journey down memory lane. Looking back in the rear view mirror at the career of Etta James through the outpouring of tributes in the media has revealed in vivid detail the undeniable majesty of the woman and her signal contribution to American music. I have listed below a few of the remembrances I have seen since the announcement of her death yesterday. They each remind us how much joy and pleasure she gave us during her tumultuous career.

Richard Williams at The Guardian provides a list of ten of his personal favorites: Etta James: 10 classic performances | Music | guardian.co.uk.

Ben Greenman over at the New Yorker offers a similar compilation of James’ hits and a brief recap of her life and struggles.

1997 Rolling Stone “Women of Rock” interview with Etta James by Katherine Dieckman.

See also Peter Keepnews on Etta James in the NYT.

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2 thoughts on “Etta James: the immortal diva

  1. PEACHES HAS BEEN A PERSONAL FRIEND OF MINE, SINCE WE MET IN PERSON AFTER ONE OF HER PERFORMANCES W/HER ROOTS BAND, DURING THE MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL, 1994. SHE WAS NOT AN EASY PERSON TO GET TO KNOW BUT HER SONS WERE FRIENDLY W/ME & AFTER LEARNED THAT SOME FOLKS CALL ME “MS. PEACHES”, WE ALL SETTLED INTO SOME GREAT CONVO RE: THE FUTURE OF THE BLUES IDIOM IN THE USA! LATER, WE ALL MET AGAIN AT THE 1999 PLAYBOY JAZZ FESTIVAL IN L.A. WHERE ELLA & HER BANDY TORE IT UP, CLSOING W/A TUNE & THE AUDIENCES “SECOND LINE” DANCE, A LA NOLA! AFTERWARD, WE MELDED INTO A VERY SATISFYING FRIENDSHIP & I SAW THEM AT MANY FESTIVALS ALL OVER THE WORLD. WHEN ETTA WAS DIAGNOSED A WHILE AGO WITH MRSA & DEBILITATING DEMENTIA, I WENT TO CALLI TO VISIT HER IN HOSPICE, AT THAT TIME. SHE WAS VERY ILL & FRAIL & HAD PRIOR TO THIS BEGUN TO CANCEL CONCERT AFTER CONCERT! FOR SOME MONTHS, SHE SPENT HER TIME IN LONG-TERM CARE BUT ABOUT 3 WEEKS AGO SHE WAS PUT ON A RESPIRATOR, BUT WAS REMOVED FROM TREATMENT SOON AFTER & RELEASED TO HER HOME. I EXPECTED THAT SHE WOULD DECEASE IMMEDIATELY AFTER THAT BUT SHE HUNG ON UNTIL YESTERDAY. I SPOKE W/HER SONS DURING THOSE FEW WEEKS & THEY WERE VERY UPBEAT.. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HER MUSIC, HER VOICE, HER ATTITUDE & HER MOXIE; & I HAVE COLLECTED NEARLY ALL HER RECORDS & CD’S EXTANT. YESTERDAY, I DJ’D AN AFTERNOON OF HER MUSIC ON MY FB PAGE. THAT MADE ME FEEL GOOD. LATE LAST NIGHT,WHILE LISTENING TO HER MUSIC, I COOKED A MEAL THAT I KNOW SHE WOULD LIKE: FRIED CHICKEN LIVERS W/SWEET ONIONS, BLACKEYE PEAS W/ SMOKED TURKEY TAILS, AND SAUTEED ZUCCHINI/YELLOW SQUASH/ONIONS IN BUTTER, FOLLOWED BY SOME SIPPIN’ BLACK JACK ON THE ROCKS! I KNOW SHE RESTS IN PEACE, AS IF ASLEEP, UNTIL GOD ALLOWS HER TO STAND UP AGAIN PHYSICALLY HERE ON THE EARTH! OH WHAT A GOOD TIME WE SHALL HAVE THEN!

  2. Knowing how much you travel and love music I am not surprised you counted Etta James among your circle of musician friends. I imagine she wasn’t the easiest person to establish a friendship with, so she must have seen something special in you.

    Thank you for sharing your memories of her. I find it so sad she had to suffer the common occurrence of contracting MRSA in the hospital—that alone can be a death warrant. I was aware of her dementia in the end, and I heard about her removal from a respirator. Not knowing her underlying health problems, I thought at that point she would recover. The other alternative—that they were sending her home to die—somehow didn’t enter into my thinking.

    Her life, as tough as it was, produced a gift of musical genius that keeps on giving. Her legacy will remain to inspire and entertain generations to come, as it continues to amaze and amuse those of us who are her lifelong fans.

    BTW, your menu sounds pretty good. I don’t do meat, but I can hang with the zucchini, the squash and the Jack.

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