Her voice delivered nuanced wisdom and raw power in equal measure.
Etta James had one of the greatest voices of her century. Forever the matriarch of the blues, she has been immortalized by such hits as “At Last,” “Tell Mama” and “Sunday Kind of Love.”
k.d. lang Inducts Etta Jamesk.d. lang Inducts Etta James at the 1993 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
k.d. lang Inducts Etta James00:01:47
Etta James Acceptance Speech00:04:29
Hall of Fame Essay
If rock & roll is rooted in teenage passion, teenage rebellion, teenage restlessness, teenage sexuality — then Etta James is a rock & roller to the bone. Starting out as a teenage phenomenon in, the Fifties, she sang with a raw, unharnessed energy that matched her male counterparts.
Her first hit, in fact, was an in-your-face reply to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie”; she was 15 when she wrote and cut “Roll With Me Henry” (aka “The Wallflower”). Etta's erotic audacity echoed the raunch of sisters like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, but in any era she would be considered a front-line feminist, a womanchild strong enough to dramatize the outrage of her gender, to break old chains and signify, “I don’t want a watchdog…I want a man.”
She sings truth into every note.
Photography: Kevin Mazur, WireImage
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