And now it is Etta James

By Art Menius 1/20/2012 for

Yesterday I did a brief blog about the passing of Johnny Otis. One of the links was to the LA Times obit whose lead noted first that he wrote “Willie and the Hand Jive” and secondly that he “discovered Etta James, Little Richard, and Hank Ballard.”

Today we mourn Ms. James.

For the Reuters story click here.

For the CNN story and some performance video click here.

As the Daily Mail noted in this obit, Etta James was one of the original rock ‘n’ roll “bad girls.”

Best known for the iconic “At Last,” this R&B pioneer was only 73. She struggled, paradoxically, with both morbid obesity and heroin addiction (hepatitis C was among her compications). Despite the eating and the shooting up, Etta James could soar.

She was the bridge between classic pop and R&B the same way her contemporary Patsy Cline (tell me there was no influence on her from Etta) connected classic pop and country. Each added lush strings during the early 1960s. How many folks could claim to be Minnesota Fats’ daughter, collect a half dozen Grammys, and perform with the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead?

Like Johnny Otis, her mentor, Etta James came from specific times, places, and circumstances unlikely to be replicated.



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