Etta James

foto artista



Few R&B singers have endured tragic travails on the monumental level that Etta James has and remain on earth to talk about it. The lady's no shrinking violet; her autobiography, Rage to Survive, describes her past (including numerous drug addictions) in sordid detail.

But her personal problems have seldom affected her singing. James has hung in there from the age of R&B and doo wop in the mid-'50s through soul's late-'60s heyday and right up into the '90s and 2000s (where her 1994 disc Mystery Lady paid loving jazz-based tribute to one of her idols, Billie Holiday). Etta James' voice has deepened over the years, coarsened more than a little, but still conveys remarkable passion and pain.

Jamesetta Hawkins was a child gospel prodigy, singing in her Los Angeles Baptist church choir (and over the radio) when she was only five years old under the tutelage of Professor James Earle Hines. She moved to San Francisco in 1950, soon teaming with two other girls to form a singing group. When she was 14, bandleader Johnny Otis gave the trio an audition. He particularly dug their answer song to Hank Ballard & the Midnighters' "Work With Me Annie."

Against her mother's wishes, the young singer embarked for L.A. to record "Roll With Me Henry" with the Otis band and vocalist Richard Berry in 1954 for Modern Records. Otis inverted her first name to devise her stage handle and dubbed her vocal group the Peaches (also Etta's nickname). "Roll With Me Henry," renamed "The Wallflower" when some radio programmers objected to the original title's connotations, topped the R&B charts in 1955.

The Peaches dropped from the tree shortly thereafter, but Etta James kept on singing for Modern throughout much of the decade (often under the supervision of saxist Maxwell Davis). "Good Rockin' Daddy" also did quite well for her later in 1955, but deserving follow-ups such as "W-O-M-A-N" and "Tough Lover" (the latter a torrid rocker cut in New Orleans with Lee Allen on sax) failed to catch on.

James landed at Chicago's Chess Records in 1960, signing with their Argo subsidiary. Immediately, her recording career kicked into high gear; not only did a pair of duets with her then-boyfriend (Moonglows lead singer Harvey Fuqua) chart, her own sides (beginning with the tortured ballad "All I Could Do Was Cry") chased each other up the R&B lists as well. Leonard Chess viewed James as a classy ballad singer with pop crossover potential, backing her with lush violin orchestrations for 1961's luscious "At Last" and "Trust in Me." But James' rougher side wasn't forsaken — the gospel-charged "Something's Got a Hold on Me" in 1962, a kinetic 1963 live LP (Etta James Rocks the House) cut at Nashville's New Era Club, and a blues-soaked 1966 duet with childhood pal Sugar Pie De Santo, "In the Basement," ensured that.

Although Chess hosted its own killer house band, James traveled to Rick Hall's Fame studios in Muscle Shoals in 1967 and emerged with one of her all-time classics. "Tell Mama" was a searing slice of upbeat Southern soul that contrasted markedly with another standout from the same sessions, the spine-chilling ballad "I'd Rather Go Blind." Despite the death of Leonard Chess, Etta James remained at the label into 1975, experimenting toward the end with a more rock-based approach.

There were some mighty lean years, both personally and professionally, for Miss Peaches. But she got back on track recording-wise in 1988 with a set for Island, Seven Year Itch, that reaffirmed her Southern soul mastery. Her following albums have been a varied lot — 1990's Sticking to My Guns was contemporary in the extreme; 1992's Jerry Wexler-produced The Right Time, for Elektra, was slickly soulful, and her most other '90s outings have explored jazz directions. In 1998, she also issued a holiday album, Etta James Christmas. She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and in 2003 received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. That year also saw the release of her Let's Roll album, followed in 2004 by a CD of new blues performances, Blues to the Bone, both on RCA Records. James then shifted gears and released an album of pop standards, All the Way, on RCA in 2006.

In concert, Etta James is a sassy, no-holds-barred performer whose suggestive stage antics sometimes border on the obscene. She's paid her dues many times over as an R&B and soul pioneer; long may she continue to shock the uninitiated.

By Bill Dahl

Courtesy All Music


At Last - The Best Of Etta James

copertina album

CD album
Decca Records
UPC 00600753308431
Etta James è scomparsa dopo lunga malattia. L'artista on è riuscita a compiere 74 anni, che avrebbe raggiunto lo scorso 25 gennaio. Ora, la straordinaria vicenda artistica di una delle più carismatiche figure della scena del Soul è racchiusa in questo album, che raccoglie ben 25 grandi successi, per la prima volta in un solo CD! I TITOLI: At Last - I Just Want To Make Love To You - I'd Rather Go Blind - Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - If I Can't Have You - You Can Leave Your Hat On - W.O.M.A.N.- Stormy Weather - Two Sides - A Sunday Kind Of Love - Tell Mama - Lovin' You More Every Day - Fool That I Am - Do I Make Myself Clear - Lovin' Arms - I Got You Babe - 842-3089 (Call My Name) - Spoonful - Out On The Street Again - Security - You Got It - Tighten Up Your Own Thing - Light My Fire - In The Basement - These Foolish Things

1 At Last (Single Version)
03:00 Etta James
2 I Just Want To Make Love To You (Single Version)
03:03 Etta James
3 I'd Rather Go Blind (Single Version)
02:34 Etta James
4 Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
02:58 Etta James
5 If I Can't Have You (Single Version)
02:55 Etta James, Harvey Fuqua
6 You Can Leave Your Hat On (Single Version)
03:21 Etta James
7 W.O.M.A.N. (Single Version)
03:14 Etta James
8 Stormy Weather (Album Version)
03:07 Etta James
9 Two Sides (To Every Story) (Single Version)
02:55 Etta James
10 A Sunday Kind Of Love (Single Version)
03:16 Etta James
11 Tell Mama (Single Version)
02:21 Etta James
12 Lovin' You More Every Day (Single Version)
03:22 Etta James
13 Fool That I Am (Single Version)
02:58 Etta James
14 Do I Make Myself Clear (Single Version)
02:59 Etta James, Sugar Pie DeSanto
15 Lovin' Arms (Single Version)
03:47 Etta James
16 I Got You Babe
02:25 Etta James
17 842-3089 (Call My Name) (Single Version)
02:58 Etta James
18 Spoonful (Single Version)
02:50 Etta James, Harvey Fuqua
19 Out On The Street Again (Single Edit)
03:45 Etta James
20 Security (Single Version)
02:29 Etta James
21 You Got It (Single Version)
02:24 Etta James
22 Tighten Up Your Own Thing (Single Version)
02:39 Etta James
23 Light My Fire (2000 Box Set Version)
02:51 Etta James
24 In The Basement, Part One (Single Version)
02:21 Etta James, Sugar Pie DeSanto
25 These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You) (Album Version)
03:58 Etta James


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P.IVA IT03802730154 Iscritta al REA di Milano con il numero 966135 in data 29/06/1977
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