Friday, January 20, 2012

Legendobit: Etta James

Just heard the not entirely unexpected news that Etta James has died. A fuller obituary will follow.

Update: As befits a legend, there are numerous detailed obituaries available - as ever, The New York Times is a good place to start:

Ms. James was not easy to pigeonhole. She is most often referred to as a rhythm and blues singer, and that is how she made her name in the 1950s with records like “Good Rockin’ Daddy.” She is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

She was also comfortable, and convincing, singing pop standards, as she did in 1961 with “At Last,” which was written in 1941 and originally recorded by Glenn Miller’s orchestra. And among her four Grammy Awards (including a lifetime-achievement honor in 2003) was one for best jazz vocal performance, which she won in 1995 for the album “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.”
The Guardian might not have thought through every claim:
The 1974 album Come a Little Closer, recorded while she was in rehab at a psychiatric hospital, features James at her best.
Artistically, perhaps. But being in a psych ward is hardly likely to be anyone's personal best.
The BBC coughs gently to remind people that while she might have owned At Last, she didn't originate it:
The title track, a cover of a 1941 number first performed by Glen Miller, was to become her signature tune, much played at weddings because of the sweet orchestral arrangement.
But for all the words and the warmth, the best way to remember James is the music.


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