Ah…l’amour. Thrilling, euphoric, tragic and agonizing. No more complicated emotion, but truly the “essence of life”.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
For your Valentine’s Day enjoyment, the Music Maven VD play list:
Etta don’t play, baby. Evidently, she also doesn’t care much for Beyonce’ either. Even though Beyonce’ Knowles (has everyone forgotten that she has a last name) played Etta James in the recent Cadillac Records and they played nice on the red carpet at the premiere in December, Etta told a Seattle concert audience (Colette, were you there?) that she “can’t stand Beyonce'”.
Beyonce' as Etta James
Now, that’s interesting, but I find the reporting a bit more interesting. Here is the USA Today’s published quote:
“You guys know your president, right?” she began. “I tell you that woman he had singing for him, singing my song — she’s going to get her a – – whupped. . . . I can’t stand Beyoncé. She has no business up there, singing up there on a big ol’ president day, gonna be singing my song that I’ve been singing forever.”
Now, here is the total quote, via MTV, that USA Today conveniently edited:
“You guys know your president, right? You know the one with the big ears?” began her rant, a recording of which was obtained by TMZ. “Wait a minute, he ain’t my president. He might be yours; he ain’t my president. But I tell you that woman he had singing for him, singing my song — she’s going to get her a– whipped.
“The great Beyoncé,” James went on. “Like I said, she ain’t mine. … I can’t stand Beyoncé. She has no business up there, singing up there on a big ol’ president day, gonna be singing my song that I’ve been singing forever.”
To hear the audio for yourself, click on TMZ within the second quote.
Of all the media outlets carrying the story, only MTV publishes the whole quote. Now, just why was the great Etta James edited so? Is it because she isn’t lock step with the legions on “The Great O”? At least MTV has some journalistic integrity. (Never thought I’d type THAT.)
I’m with Etta, however. I can’t stand Beyonce’ either. Totally overrated and overhyped. Jennifer Hudson put her to absolute shame in Dreamgirls. If not for her stage father, Beyonce’ would be singing back up somewhere.
As for who “owns” At Last, I’ll let you be the judge….
Beyonce’ in character, paying tribute to Etta James at Fashion Rocks
• As for James’ biting remarks, a couple of family members have been quoted as saying they may have been the result of ”over-medication” for an undisclosed ailment.
Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire. Even if Etta was “out of her mind” (which it certainly doesn’t sound so in the audio), perhaps her true feelings were revealed? But certainly ETTA couldn’t be vocally in discord with The Great One OR Beyonce’, right? No, she’s just either senile, over-medicated, or a “bitter old woman”.
To preface this great post by Colette, I want to bring attention to the Blues Diva documentary that was recently featured on PBS. Morgan Freeman is the host from his Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Catch it if you can. Superb.
While Colette touches upon Irma Thomas in her post, this post would be remiss if the rest of these ladies weren’t mentioned. Among others, the documentary features Mavis Staples, Bettye LaVette, Odetta and one of my personal favorites, Deborah Coleman.
The incomparable Mavis Staples with a personal favorite, Respect Yourself
So many great Blues Divas. Thanks, Colette, for your submission.
Posting anEtta James video on this site recently reminded me of the rich and ongoing legacy of women blues shouters. Yes shouters, Mr. Simon Cowell. As far as the blues goes, shoutin’ ain’t no bad thing, baby. There are many ways to sing the blues. But Etta “Peaches” James and her kind are the ones with the mile-wide voices that can thunder and growl, squeeze very drop of pathos from a lyric, and let you know that wild women do get the blues. The greatest of these belters all influence one another, and the tradition lives on. Sorry I couldn’t find good clips for some other favorites — Ma Rainey, Tracy Nelson, etc. And sorry, I’m just not a Joss Stone fan (maybe someday). But if there’s something else in this particular vein you’d like to share, I’d sure love to hear it.
Let’s start with Etta. People in the know say she can be mean as a rattlesnake, and twice as much trouble when in a nasty mood. But one cuts some slack to a force of nature — and that, Peaches has been since the great bluesman and scout Johnny Otis “discovered” her back in the 1950s. She cut her signature tune “At Last” in 1961, on the Chess label, and since then has endured some extremely rough personal passages, including a long (and thankfully, a successful) battle with heroin addiction.
Now close to 70, she’s enjoying a career renaissance since having weight reduction surgery reduced her life-threatening bulk, and since great Peaches tunes like “The Blues is My Business” have been featured in movies and popular TV series like “The Sopranos.”
This whole set could be devoted to Etta, but here’s just a couple of my favorite Peaches numbers on video:
Jimmy Reed’s “You Got Me Running” — Etta James and The Bluesbreakers
Shemekia Copeland is a young blueswoman really worth a big listen. A wunderkind who began her career in her teens, she just gets better in her 20’s. The daughter of Johnny Clyde Copeland, the late Texas blues guitar great, Shemekia has a little trouble getting her powerhouse voice heard in an era when her kinda music isn’t anywhere near the Top 40. So please, please check her out on tour and take a listen to her CD’s — she is hot as a pistol. Here she is with her peerless mentor B.B. King on Letterman, and doing live a number from one of her recent albums:
“Everyday I Have the Blues” — Shemekia Copeland and B.B. King
“Who Stole My Radio?” — Shemekia Copeland
Music Maven NOTE #2: Shemekia Copeland performed on stage with one Taylor Hicks at Buddy Guy’s in Chicago, earlier this Spring.
There are “foremothers” galore from the 1950s in the blues shouter field, but probably none as potent as Big Mama Thornton, a killer harmonica player as well as a singer who can make your spine tingle and hair stand on end. It was Big Mama who originally recorded “Hound Dog” (pre-Elvis) and “Ball and Chain” (pre-Janis). Thanks to the popularity of the latter tune when Janis Joplin recorded it, her career resurged in the 1970s (she died in 1984) and she was thrilled to be embraced by young blues “mavens.”
“Rock Me” — Big Mama Thornton
“Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton with the wonderful Buddy Guy
A little smoother around the edges, the late Ruth Brown (who died recently) was a shouter par excellence. This is was a huge hit for (and a great sisterhood anthem), and later in life she too had a resurgence — in the hit musical “Black and Blue” on Broadway, in clubs, even on film. What a sizzler:
“Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” — Ruth Brown, live at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre
How can you play Big Mama in this set, but ignore Janis? No way. I was lucky to hear both artists live, and they both sang this soul-rattling woman’s blues (which Big Mama wrote). What can you say about Janis that hasn’t already been said? We’ll not see the likes of her again. Here is a performance in Germany that’s one of her best on video, followed by a cut of her singing one of Etta’s big smashes, “Tell Mama.”
“Ball and Chain” — Janis Joplin
“Tell Mama” — Janis Joplin
We’ve been spending a lot of time with Texas gals, so let’s move on to New Orleans, and two great, still active blues shouters there: Irma Thomas, in a short clip singing “Time is On My Side” with none other than New Orleans pianist-composer extraordinaire Allan Toussaint on piano:
And Marva Wright, who didn’t start singing professionally until her 40’s but is making up for lost time herself:
“Heartbreakin’ Woman” — Marva Wright
Finally, we have to pay homage to whom it is always and forever due: Bessie Smith. Along with Ma Rainey and a few others, she invented a kind of gutsy, full-throttle blues singing that has been a touchstone for everyone to follow. This is the only film I know of Bessie singing, from the film “St. Louis Blues.” It’s long, but stick with it. She’s mesmerizing: