“When I perform what happens is I’m somewhere else. I go back in time and get in touch with who I really am.” – Etta James
Etta James, aka Miss Peaches, would have celebrated her 74th birthday today. She passed away last Friday after a lengthy battle with leukemia. She’s had quite a long career, and was first discovered as a teenager by Johnny Otis, with her first hit in 1955. She recorded for Modern Records and Kent Records for the remainder of the 50s. She signed with Chess in 1960, recording with them until 1976. The dark part of her life was battling an addiction to heroin from the mid 60s to the mid 70s. A survivor, in 1978 she recorded the Jerry Wexler produced Deep in the Night, which was her final recording until 1988, returning to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio to record Seven Years Itch. From 1988 through 2006, she recorded frequent albums. The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame gave her a recognition she more than deserved finally, in 1993, and inducted her in.
I first came across her music in 1994 with the release of
Mystery Lady – Songs of Billie Holiday
Being a Billie Holiday fan I was curious to hear her interpretation. On this album she gives the most haunting delivery of “(I’m Afraid) The Masquerade is Over”, “How Deep is the Ocean”, “You’ve Changed” and “Don’t Explain” – my personal favorites on this incredible album. It’s as if she channeled Billie. Her own battles may have been similar, being so talented and young in a hungry record game. Here is “The Verry Thought of You”
Discogs shows she recorded a whopping 29 albums, and made numerous appearances. Her most recent release, Blues to the Bone, drips of down home guitarsy blues.
Here is her singing one of her biggest classics, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” (Live). What power!
If you would like to learn more about her, aside from the new Cadillac Records movie, there is a print biography called Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story. Da Capo Press, 1998. ISBN 0306808129 (Etta James, David Ritz) and a movie, Etta James and the Roots Band: Burnin’ Down the House (2002) (V)
Artist express their thoughts on her passing:
Aretha Franklin – “Etta James was one of the great soul singers of our generation. An American original! I loved ‘Pushover,’ ‘At Last’ and almost any and everything she recorded. When Etta SUNG, you heard it!”
Chaka Khan –“Rest in peace Etta James. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.”
P!nk – RIP to the late and great Etta James. Your voice and your fight inspired me and many. I love that through recordings, people can live forever.
Rest in peace dear diva of blues and soul music.