I just like looking at her. She was so unique.
Etta James is, to me, the pinnacle of Soul music. As a singer, she is one of my favorites of all time. She nails the growling as well as the silky smooth. After learning her story and seeing her live she became even more inspiring.
Etta was someone with a rage to live as well as a "rage to survive" (The name of her Autobiography with David Ritz, which I highly recommend). She lived hard and lived surprisingly long for all that she put her body through. As a child she was abused, neglected and passed from one person to another. Her music reflected all this. You can feel it. This was not a person who lacked a story to tell. She didn't lack personality. This is sass in all its glory.
As a woman, she pushed some major boundaries. She was physically relatively large. She had a huge voice that was powerful in its sexuality and passion, something that made mid-century white mainstream America uncomfortable.
As a woman she is inspiring to me, balancing power, passion and femininity. I've realized that I hold most singers to this standard. To me she is perfection. Her music is perfection.
Yes, Etta had demons. And she overcame them, with a little help from friends like the Chess Brothers. While reading "Rage to Survive" I was moved by their relationship. While the biopic "Cadillac Records" capitalized off of this relationship in the Hollywood way, Etta credited Leonard Chess for saving her. For instance she had given him possession to the deed of her home in Compton, so even when she was totally down and out, she still had a place to sleep and had something to call her own.
I know it's cheesy, but this is the song I will be singing at my wedding.
Anyway, I wanted to pay this lovely lady a tribute on the day of her death.
Thank you Etta, for all of your music
For all your pain, for all your joy, your passion
Thank you for sharing that with the world.