Etta James vs. Beyonce: “At Last” Etta James Spits her Bit


I guess that when you get old enough – and Lord I hope I live as long as Etta James has – you tend to get a little ornery.  A little grumpy.  A little jealous.  A little ridiculous.

You see, on Inauguration night, for President and Mrs. Obama’s first dance, Beyonce serenaded the first couple with the song “At Last.”  Smoked it, actually.  Stunning rendition.

I say rendition since, of course, Beyonce did not write the song.  The so ng was written for a musical called “Orchestra Wives”, and first recorded – as a major hit – by Glenn Miller, 1942 (written 1941).  Sixteen years later – 1957 – Nat “King” Cole brought it back and made it a major hit again.  Four years after that – at the prompting of some record producer – Etta James released a third version of the song.

That was 1960, nineteen years after the song was first a hit and the song’s third go-around.  Of course, over the last couple decades, Etta has presented it as her “signature” song.  Fine.  She rips it up and has made tons of money from it.  But guess what, Etta?  It ain’t “your song." You didn’t write it, you covered it.  And it was a major hit twice before you ever even heard it.

So, what was Ms. James’ reaction to Beyonce singing “At Last” to President and Mrs. Obama?   Etta James went off the deep end, threatening Beyonce and denouncing the President.

At a Seattle club last week Ms. James stated that, “I tell you, that woman he (President Obama) has singing for him, she gonna get her ass whipped.”  She then went on to refer the President as “your President – that’s not my President," and went on about how “At Last” is “her song."   Huh?  She didn’t write it, she didn’t record it or make it a hit first (or even second), and about 20 other major artists have recorded it since Etta did.

The crowd at the Seattle nightclub where Ms. James ranted – and I use the term “crowd” generously – went wild.  Classy, all the way.  Of course, today, Ms. James is trying, sort of, to claim that she was just joking.   Yeah, right.  If you hear the tape of her when she said it, you can clearly see that she was not kidding, which is really, really sad.

When Etta James goes loony tunes over Beyonce singing “At Last” – threatening her and renouncing the President for having the temerity to dance to Beyonce’s version – I have to conclude that Ms. James has stayed up too late in too many night clubs once too many times.  That Ms. James is, basically, nuts.

Hang up the career, Etta.  Life has been good and long for you, but you may have just jumped the shark.  Don’t push it.

(Image courtesy of Getty)