On the morning of January 20th, 2011, the world lost blues powerhouse Etta James, who passed away due to complications from leukemia which she was diagnosed with only a year ago. Only 5 days before her 74th birthday, Etta James AKA The Matriarch of R&B left behind not only her husband and two sons, but her definitive path in music that she made herself.
Perhaps her most cherished ode to date, Etta’s “At Last” from her album of the same title is a song that everybody can relate to. Whether you had your first dance to it, played it as you walked down the aisle on your wedding day, or remember the scene in Pleasantville where Tobey Maguire drives through the cherry blossoms, it cannot be denied that it will stand the test of time as one of the best love songs ever recorded.
“At last / My love has come along / My lonely days are over / And life is like a song”
James was a one-of-a-kind artist throughout her entire career, blending a mix of blues, jazz, rock, soul, and gospel together into her own respective genre. She paved the way for singers like Adele, who also encompasses all of those genres into her music. An interview with UK publication The Guardian about a year ago had Adele going over the details of why James is one of her biggest influences.
“Everything she sings – you believe her, even if she never wrote a word of it herself”, said Adele. “She just has so much attitude. I met her backstage after [her] show, very briefly. My mind went completely blank. I didn’t know what to say. Afterwards, I was crying my eyes out.”
Even after passing, Etta James will continue to have this effect on musicians and listeners alike. Her tough road to becoming one of the world’s most influential artists will always be remembered, and her raw talent will live on through her music and the lyrics she sings for all to hear.