Tag Archives: Etta James

Voices: R.I.P. Etta James (1938-2012)

Compiled by Arturo R. García

The live performance is brutal, a storm of laidback blues and thunderous notes, and as raw as if the song’s betrayal had happened just earlier that evening. James punishes that microphone until you pity it. At one point she begins to pounce on the word “baby,’’ booming its syllables like they’re meant to sound like gunfire.

Dr. John eventually saunters over from his piano, looking like a dog that’s just peed on the rug. He’s supposed to appease James for stepping out on her – “It wasn’t nothin’ serious / I guess I was just a little delirious’’ – but even he knows it’s in vain. Hell hath no fury like this particular woman scorned.

At the end of the performance, James embraces Dr. John, her head resting on his shoulder, and I like to imagine James is thinking what I’m thinking: Where the hell did that just come from?

In just six minutes, that, to me, is the essence of Etta James. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
- James Reed, The Boston Globe

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