Farewell Etta James

One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to see Etta James perform live. She played Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium five years ago, played Arrington Vineyards outside of Nashville two years ago, and I didn’t see either show.

I have a bunch of Etta James CDs, I think I loved every single song she did. Yes, Mr. Beale and I played “At Last” at our wedding. I don’t care if it’s cliche, it’s an amazing song and an amazing performance.

A lot of folks don’t know that James recorded a country album back in the 90s. It was, in my view, one of the finest recordings of her career. It’s called Love’s Been Rough On Me, and it contains one of my all-time favorite Etta James songs: “Cry Like A Rainy Day.” Oh, man. That song slays me every time. And I do mean every time.

That said, in this Rolling Stone interview from 1997, James didn’t seem to have the same high regard for her foray into Nashville as I did. She said:

Well … I’d been dying to make a country record. I love the women in country ‑ Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells ‑ and I wanted to be the first black woman to do the Grand Ole Opry, if just to say it’s the same fucking thing as rhythm & blues! So I did Love’s Been Rough on Me with Barry Beckett [James’ longtime producer], and when it was done, the label heard it and said, “You gotta pizazz this up or it won’t get played. [Growls) Needs some of that ass‑kicking shit.” Uh, OK. So they put all these horns on it and remixed it. Even the cover photo ‑ they wouldn’t use the one I wanted. That record has nothing to do with me ‑ looking like some old woman with a leopard scarf around my neck, getting ready to go make some spaghetti!

But I wasn’t gonna fight it, ’cause I wasn’t gonna win. Nowadays, when you get past 35, it seems like you can’t get a record going. I never hear my stuff played on the air, unless it’s an oldies station and somebody goes [mock DJ voice], “Now we’re gonna go waaaay back.” But I’ll make that country record yet. I’ll be on the cover standing by an old wagon wheel, with my foot propped up on a cactus or something, with a cowboy hat on and one of those shingle leather jackets. Etta Goes Country

God love her! RIP, Miss Etta. The world will miss your talent. I know I will, for sure.

Here’s “Cry Like A Rainy Day,” pulled off the YouTube. Don’t arrest me, internet police; I’m just sharing something I found on the internet. Go buy the record, peeps:


Filed under music, Nashville, pop culture

4 responses to “Farewell Etta James

  1. Shame. Bloodshot Records in Chicago would have jumped all over that; they have a fondness for country music from atypical directions.

  2. ThresherK

    I don’t care if it’s cliche.


    As the first dance song, I say: It’s pretty much the champeen until something replaces it. Take it from the guy who had to go to bridal fairs (which I enjoyed, actually) the year that “My Boat Will Go On” was released. I knew I was marrying the right woman when neither of us wanted anything to do with the S.S. Celine.

    (Our song was something else, but Etta’s “At Last” and also Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” were on the list of must-haves. If only I had the vision to arrange for the 30-something Barry Obama to sing the latter for us!)

    • “My Boat Will Go On” …


      We were both singing “Let’s Stay Together” around the house this morning. Obama gave us an awesome brainworm. I’m sorry, say what you will, but POTUS is cool. He just is. He’s not perfect, but he’s cool. Play that clip of Obama singing next to the one of W doing his goofy dance with the folks in native costume and there’s just no contest.

      • ThresherK

        You want a “no contest”?

        How about Obama’s few bars of crooning at the Apollo v. Newt’s pep rally at Triumph des Willens II: The Prequel in South Carolina.

        Each in front of supporters. Very telling.