Four Steps From The Blues presents Etta James: Burner’s Choice

The appropriately named Don from the blog Four Steps From The Blues considers Etta James as the REAL Queen Of Soul, and I can’t really argue with him. Although the title is usually attributed to Aretha, there’s a true pain and suffering expressed by Etta James that can only come from a life lived hard. Don explains…

“Aretha Franklin is often referred to as ‘The Queen Of Soul’.  She’s damn good, and has that big gospel sound.  But for my money, Etta James does Soul music better because she sells it with her emotion instead of a big voice. Etta’s debut at age 17 remains her only a #1 (R&B chart) record; 1954’s ‘Roll With Me Henry‘.  She’s best known for 1961’s ‘At Last‘ and her peak was probably the 1967 album ‘Tell Mama‘ (not represented here).  She has received four Grammys and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.  You younger people may have seen Beyonce’s portrayal of Etta in the recent movie Cadillac Records. Etta is still touring today, and her most recent record was released in 2006.

Few R&B singers have endured tragic travails on the monumental level that Etta James has and remain on earth to talk about it. The lady’s no shrinking violet; her autobiography, Rage to Survive, describes her past (including numerous drug addictions) in sordid detail. But her personal problems have seldom affected her singing. James has hung in there from the age of R&B and doo wop in the mid-’50s through soul’s late-’60s heyday and right up into the ’90s and 2000s (where her 1994 disc Mystery Lady paid loving jazz-based tribute to one of her idols, Billie Holiday). Etta James’ voice has deepened over the years, coarsened more than a little, but still conveys remarkable passion and pain. In concert, Etta James is a sassy, no-holds-barred performer whose suggestive stage antics sometimes border on the obscene. She’s paid her dues many times over as an R&B and soul pioneer; long may she continue to shock the uninitiated.” – Don (FSFTB)