I heard the news today that one of my music idols, Etta James, passed away.
I’m so grateful to her for the music she made. Her legacy will live on through her songs. Personally, I will never forget the time I saw her live. It was almost 3 years ago to the day actually. I’m reposting that story here in her memory.
Jan. 29th, 2009
Let me just state for the record that I adore Etta James. I L-O-V-E her. Many of you might know her for her famous song, “At Last”, which you’ve probably danced to at one or twelve weddings or heard in a movie. But that’s not even her best song in my opinion. She’s got sass and attitude along with her amazing voice and her undeniable presence. If I could be any singer, I’d probably want to be her. She’s like Mae West meets B.B. King.
She is, in a word, a legend.
Last night I went to go see her (third row, center, HELLO!) and I walked away traumatized by the experience. It wasn’t the scantily clad whorebags talking loudly in front of us that did it (though seriously, shut your pie holes). Nor was it the lady with the cane sitting next to me rocking the entire row with her “dancing” who, by the way, smelled like a strange mixture of drugstore perfume, dog shampoo and Chinese food. It wasn’t even the young guy behind us wearing the Obama hope shirt that kept yelling out like he was Her Biggest Fan (we GET IT dude!). It certainly wasn’t my “date” for the evening, the always gracious, amusing and charming Dave2 from Blogography. Oh no. It was none of these. It was Etta James herself.
For one hour, she played a total of six song which means we basically paid $10 a song. That’s okay, honestly, because she is a phenomenal singer and besides, the woman is 81. Remember that. It’s an important fact. During the first song everyone was pumped, hooting and hollering, as she came out on her scooter. She broke out into song and started gesturing- fondling her breasts, motioning to her crotch, rubbing on herself. I look at Dave and we’re like woah! but we’re laughing and enjoying it with the rest of the crowd. It makes sense because the song is a bit racy. But then then next song starts and she starts making kissing noises into the mic and then wags her tongue at it and again with the sexual gestures and I’m like um, what is going on?! And for the next two songs, the same thing.
I started to wonder if she was an oversexed 81 year old or I was just a prudish 35 year old. I mean, I’m all for getting some into your senior years but what is WITH the sexual gestures? Even when the song isn’t actually sexual? It started to feel dirty and wrong. She could be my grandmother! She’s on a scooter! She’s touching her vagina on stage!
Then she announced she was going to sing “At Last” so the crowd went predictably wild. She said something about someone and how they can fuck themselves. Turns out, Etta was ripping into Beyonce. She seemed pretty pissed at her singing her song at the Inauguration Ball and probably, I’m guessing, portraying her in the recent film, Cadillac Records. There was a lot of “fuck her” over and over. I will say though that that was the first song of the night where she did not fondle herself- a welcome relief to my bleeding eyes.
I’m still a little agape at the whole experience.
I still love her but maybe if I were to be her, I’d keep the sexual overtones to one song. And I wouldn’t pretend hump a chair.
*Note: I clearly had her age wrong since she was 73 when she passed away. She wasn’t 81 but rather 70 when we saw her.
Here’s my favorite song of hers: