Etta James- A Scoop LA PerspectiveEntertainment, News — By Buddy Sampson on January 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm
The Legend Was Colorful, but The Scoop LA Remembers Her Fondly
By Buddy Sampson
A pioneer of Soul and R&B has left us, Etta James.
Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012) was an singer whose style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, gospel and jazz. Starting her career in the mid-1950s, she gained fame with hits such as “Dance With Me, Henry“, “At Last“, “Tell Mama“, and “I’d Rather Go Blind, a song she penned.” She faced a number of personal problems, including drug addiction, before making a musical resurgence in the late 1980s with the album The Seven Year Itch.
James is regarded as having bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll, and is the winner of six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked James number 22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.
As media professionals, James has left us, The Scoop LA, with some fine memories. When I logged in my computer last week and read the article on Yahoo news, I found that there were a lot of things about Etta James I didn’t know. The article said she battled drug addiction and successfully got off heroin. After she got off heroin, she reached out to clubs booking her own engagements in small clubs.
I was fortunate enough to be at one of those clubs. When I first came to California in 1981, I took a job working at a bank as a teller at Crocker Bank and met a lady, a singer and musician, Essra Mohawk, whose boyfriend played for Etta James. They invited me to a now defunct club at LaBrea and Washington Avenues called The Parisian Room. There is now a post office there, but Etta James was magic in that small club. There weren’t many in the audience, but she was simply electrifying. She wowed everyone there, including me. At the time, I hadn’t started my journalism career as yet, but meeting her and hearing her jokes, because she was so lively, impressed me as much as her singing.
Since that time, I’ve had the fortune of interviewing James several times and Etta was always colorful and fun. I heard stories of her terrorizing other journalists, but she was always nice, respectful and always made me laugh. I’ve had the fortune over the years to meet Cab Calloway and many musical legends at the Long Beach Jazz Festival and I was very lucky to interview her in her trailer. Another outstanding photojournalist, that writes a column for us, remembers her fondly as well. “I first met Miss Etta James during her book signing at the Bilbrew Library in Los Angeles, California,” said Scoop LA columnist Kim Webster, who also writes and shoots photography for several other newspapers and magazines. “The first thing I said was ‘Jamesetta Rogers,’ and she smiled and replied ‘you got that right.’ I saw her in concert at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago, a fantastic show!” James was raised by a family, the Rogers family when she was small, so sometimes she used both names, Jamesetta Rogers or Jamesetta Hawkins. Some of her friends affectionately called her “Miss Peaches.”
In our career as journalists, we meet and encounter many musical legends and icons of the entertainment industry. Many times, they impress us, sometimes they underwhelm us. But Etta James was never underwhelming. She was a force musically. Her song “At Last” will be played eternally at weddings, social gatherings and at public events. Many singers have covered that song, but no one will ever sing it like the legendary Etta James. We were saddened to hear the news of her passing and we want to take this time to thank Etta James for her wonderful voice, her talent and her always ebullient personality. The world lost an amazing legend and may she delight all those in heaven with her fantastic, but eternal voice.
Biographic information provided by Wikipedia.
All photos by Kim Webster.