Saturday, 11 February 2012

Etta James

Etta James passed away last month. She was a few weeks short of her 74th birthday. That she made it that far is something of a miracle, and the usual sensationalist media reports focused on her struggle with addiction rather than give her the credit she deserves as one of the greatest singers of the 20th century. Not possessed of a range like Flora Purim or the gospel clarity of Aretha Franklin, she more than made up for it with an honesty of expression that is rarely matched. The capacity to go from a guttural roar to the most delicate of tones virtually within a single word, let alone phrase is her trademark. When Etta sings "I'd rather go blind" you FEEL the pain of a failed relationship, and when she sings "All the way down" you know she's been ALL the way. Her version of Randy Newman's "God's Song (That's why I love mankind)" is spine chilling in the ferocity of its delivery. Where Randy sings it with his usual laconic cynicism, Etta is pure destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Effortlessly transcending genres she soars from rock'n'roll to blues to soul to funk to jazz with a total lack of pretence in delivery or stage presence. Much missed by those that like their music powerful and passionate...

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