Did Etta James Go Too Far?

If there's one thing we love it's a crunk sista of advanced age. It doesn't matter if what she has to say is fair, warranted, realistic or accurate--it simply entertains us. I'm sure everyone by now is aware of Etta James' remarks on Beyoncé singing "At Last" for the Obamas' first dance. If not, behold this magnificent gem of a quote:

"You guys know your president right? You know the one with the big ears. Yeah, wait a minute, he ain't my president, he might be yours. I tell you that woman he had singing for him, singing my song, she gonna get her ass whipped. The great Beyonce! Now like I said, she ain't mine. I can't stand Beyonce! She had no business up there singing. Singing on a big ole, big ole president day and going be singing my song that I've been singing forever."


Etta James speaks her mind

Although we were quite amused by this, we're aware that not everyone thinks it's that funny. The SB crowd tends to be a passionate, opinionated bunch. How do you feel about Etta's rant? Additionally, did she go too far by tossing President Obama under the bus?
Etta James on Beyonce: "She gon' get her a** whipped!" [WTF]

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36 Responses

  1. wow! did she early say that? I've read things where it said she was happy about the rendition. plus, when they were promoting the movie and B was wearing the stupid blond wig everywhere, she seemed to be very cordial with her. I never heard her come out then about the girl singing "her song."

  2. I think Etta may have gone a little to far with her remarks about President Obama (still amazed at the fact that we have a Black President), but I kinda feel her when she upset about Beyonce singing her signature song for the first dance.
    Yes, I understand that Cadillac Records had been released on the big screen last year and that Beyonce was most recently heard performing the song in the film and/or soundtrack, but it seemed more to me like it was a promotion for Beyonce and the film, rather than a special moment for the Prez and first lady. Again, this is just my opinion.
    Etta is still alive and kicking. Why couldn't she have been the one to sing her own signature song? There were rumblings that Beyonce wanted to be a part of the Inauguration festivities, well that's all fine and dandy. She could have just performed a song from her latest cd instead, and let Etta have that moment. Just something to think about and it would have been another way to show how Etta and other legendary singers who paved the way for Beyonce to have been acknowledged. You see wasn't nobody gonna take Aretha's box styled hat and all!

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    Just because she is a "legend", "Old School" or an elder does not give her the right to talk bad about people for no reason . I'm not part of the "cant stand Beyonce crowd". Sure she seems like a shallow, robot at times its hard to know the "real" Beyonce. But I cant really recall a time were she was talking down about another artists, being purposely mean, or negative. People will bring up the past members of DC and what not but for the most part Ms. B is squeaky clean. Its like she's the pretty b*tch in high school that all the other chicks love to hate. So Etta needs to sit her ass down somewhere and be glad someone decided to make a movie about her life, and shoot her a check. Old people are haters too. Look at Aretha..

  4. I totally disagree with Etta's comments about President Obama. Did it ever occur to her that he had NOTHING to do with the list of performers for the inauguration? That he had something else on his becoming President?
    I can't say I'm surprised by Etta's comments on Beyonce. Etta was against Beyonce playing her in "Cadillac Records". She didn't feel Bey had enough "grit" to bring her to life on film. But what could Etta do? Beyonce was an executive producer. Also at the premiere, when the reporter asked Etta what she thought of Bey's performance...she replied that she liked it, but Beyonce couldn't sing "At Last" better than her.
    So I think it's safe to say that Etta doesn't not care for Princess Beyonce too much.
    I did wonder however when it was announced that Bey would be singing 'At Last' to the Pres and First Lady, why Etta wasn't asked to do it. She did make the song famous and should have been given the opportunity to serenade the First Couple.
    However, after this tirade...maybe we know why she wasn't asked.
    P.S. I wonder we consider Etta's comments about Bey out of line b/c it's Beyonce? Would there be the same level of outrage if she were talking about...Fantasia for example?

  5. ugh, get a whiff of this chick! what's up with these legends lately? yes, i do take it with a grain of salt and it is kinda funny, but Etta James is just bugging out. she's just mad because she wasn't invited. with all this talk of her "sexually suggestive" performances and loose cannon personality, does she really think that Obama wanted to run the risk of her being there and embarrassing everybody in the building? aside from that, Etta James acts like she wrote the song. yes, it may be her signature tune, but she doesn't have any rights to it like that. at this point, James should be glad that anyone still has her name in their mouth. these "legends" are making it mighty hard to respect my elders, as of late.

  6. I think Etta James had no right to go after Obama, it just screams attention. I understand where she is coming from with that song. Beyonce was playing a role, now she singing the song, I wonder how many people forgot who originally sang that song or even heard James sing it.

  7. @dar: aside from that, Etta James acts like she wrote the song. yes, it may be her signature tune, but she doesn't have any rights to it like that.
    Beyonce doesn't have any rights to the song either, but she gladly performed it as if it were her own. I don't think Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner or Patti Labelle would have been overlooked in the same fashion.
    Maybe there is something going on behind the scenes with Ms. James as to why she wasn't invited...I don't know?

  8. I don't think Etta should've went as far as saying, "he's ain't my president", etc. but the woman does have a point. It's not that Beyonce didn't do a decent job with the song, but I know "Why isn't Etta singing?" was one of the first questions I asked inaug night. If Etta were to (God forbid) die tomorrow guess who'd be all up in every camera talkin' about how much of an influence she was. ::insert side-eye::
    Etta has admitted that she wasn't the first person to sing "At Last," but it was her vocals that made the song the classic slow dance/wedding standard for the last 40+ years. Beyonce already had her time in the sun with it via Cadillac Records & the movie's promotional tour. I think handing it back to the person that delivered its initial success at such a poignant time in history would've been the honorable thing to do.
    I've been on the blogs & it's easy for younger folks to say Etta is just old & bitter, but if we think about all the historical "full circle"-type fanfare surrounding Obama's win/inaug, I'm sure it meant A LOT to Etta & she's probably more hurt than pissed. Beyonce didn't live through the Civil Rights era & besides the chick had already sung somethin' for the concert on the mall that previous Saturday. Why not give that moment to someone (in my opinion) more deserving?
    Beyonce has always tried to play down her diva-ness ever since her days with Destiny's Child, but that chick truly has a meanstreak. Everything from "leaking" singles or dropping albums on the exact day that her former Destiny Child group members are suppose to be dropping their projects to this Etta James thing over the last year. There's more to this girl than she [publicly] let's on. Just sayin'. I mean, she has a song that professes how much of a diva she is, but I guess you could attribute it to that split personal---I mean, her "stage persona," right?

  9. You guys need to hear the actual audio clip. It's all over the net. It's really no secret that Etta doesn't care for Beyaki so I got a good cackle out of her rant. Now the whole thing baout Obama made me pause for a minute but hey. I still don't get why that song was performed at the ball any as it seems more of a wedding song. Etta has no rights to the song even though most associate it with her. I also agree if it were a Patti, TIna or Aretha song they would have been there.

  10. Well, I believe Etta James DID make those negative remarks about Beyonce and President Obama. There are 'amateur' reviews of the Jan. 28th Paramount Theatre show in Seattle online, and most people agree that Etta appeared under the influence of "something" that night. Her vocals were weak, her language vulgar, and she kept "rubbing" herself inappropriately. She's obviously not ready to perform on a world stage like the U.S. inauguration at this present time.

  11. Whoa Etta! First off, didn't Etta James's son come out and say that the reason she didn't perform the song was because she was ill, and that Obama (or whoever was in charge of picking the artists for the event) wanted Etta to intitally perform it? I swear I remember reading something about that...correct me if I'm wrong.
    While I don't care for Beyonce (or her portrayal as Etta in 'Cadillac Records'), I still think Etta should lay off of degrading Beyonce, it's tacky and the comments about Obama are tasteless as well.
    You would think that someone like Etta would be supportive or at least pleased that her life was made into a movie and that her story was (semi) told and that her signature song was given a big honorable spotlight at the dance, because that song (no matter who sings it) carried alot of power for that historical moment.

  12. I have no idea whether Etta was asked to sing the song at Obama's inauguration, but I feel that she should have at least been approached. I saw Cadillac Records, and even though I am not a Bey stan, I didn't hate her performance. After all, it's Beyonce...I wasn't expecting something of Angela Bassett caliber.
    Now, I don't feel it was necessary for Etta to include Barack in her rant, because he may have had nothing to do with the selection of Beyonce. I think that if they were going to use the song "At Last", Etta should've sung it, because she made it famous. It does make me wonder if the rumors that Matthew contributed money to Barack's campaign to get his daughter in on the inauguration are true. I would think that an iconic moment such as the first black president's dance with his wife would include someone with a bit more gravitas than Beyonce....just my $.02.

  13. I love me some Etta James - but she need to slow up on my President! Now, I remember during Inaugaration week that they announced that Beyonce would be singing something and they were'nt sure what song she would select. She selected "At Last" and that is why they stopped at that ball first because the first song the First Couple (is that a fair title) dance to is the song that will be played throughout the rest of the night at the other balls for their dance.
    I don't blame Etta for her rant - we don't know if she was entirely sober or not - but I'd be tire of her always trying to upstage someone. To be honest, if I were Beyonce I would have selected another standard or even had another song written for the occasion. But I guess you don't mess with Fierce Kitty Etta James - she don't give a damn who you are! LOL

  14. @Audio Diva
    Hmmm...Etta James was ill? Code word for drunk? High? My family used to say the same thing when my grandfather missed church.

  15. Not classy at all. Etta may have forfeited her right to indignance for being left out of a historic moment due to an inability to express herself appropriately.
    Patti wouldn't have come at it this way.
    Flag on the play for unnecessary greasiness.

  16. I still think this was a Drag Queen getting ready to perform. Sounds just like a man.

  17. Well, some older people are mean. Before I get jumped on about age discrimination, I said SOME not ALL. I know this to be true because I worked in a nursing home for many years and some are mean and/or bitter.
    I think that the reason why she spoke against Bey and Obama is because she was bitter that she wasn't asked to sing "At Last" at any of the balls. She's hurt, that's all. She has a right to feel the way that she feels. Maybe they should have had her sing HER SONG at one of the many balls that were going on as she calls it "that big ole' president's day".
    Also, I didn't get offended when she said "He isn't my president", I like Obama and I respect the office of the president, but some of the comments are making it equivalent to blasphemy. He ain't Jesus.

  18. Anyone who thinks this is solely about the inauguration is naive. This situation speaks for an entire generational gap within the music industry & the lack of respect that comes with a new crop of artists that sometimes sample or cover old material without the original artist's approval, etc. Obviously Beyonce had clearance to use it & Etta didn't actually pen the song, but once again I think it taps into the "diva" stigma Beyonce has tried to downplay for the longest time. She performed at the Concert on the Mall, why not take a backseat to the spotlight for JUST A MOMENT & be gracious enough to hand it over to a person who undoubtedly made "At Last" the trademark it is today?--But of course Beyonce & her minions are ignorant to such noble-minded behavior & seize the moment without thought or courtesy.
    I point to moments in history like this...
    that didn't exclude or substitute a previous generation's contributions. Young & old/old & new coming together to bridge the gap. Look at that line-up!

  19. In the name of Marvin; What's Going On?
    Oh dear God no! Not another one poppin' off. Who's next? Gladys?
    Have they all developed tourettes?
    Will somebody please up their medication?
    Dignity ladies, dignity.

  20. When you're mad, pissed off or drunk, no one is off limits. Not even precious Barack Obama. Let's be real, he's the president not anyone's personal savior.
    Somebody needed to call Beyonce out & who better that an original diva? Was Etta crass & tacky as hell, yes but we are talking about Etta. Beyonce ain't shit & it would be great to see Etta slap the taste out of her mouth. I would actually pay to see that.

  21. Not particularly classy on Ms. James' part. Honestly, I don't want to hear 2009 Etta James sing that song. I'd much rather have the memories of what her voice used to sound like. (i.e. Franklin, Aretha)
    And I'm not a big fan of Beyonce's robot-perfect performances, either. But I didn't mind her singing the song. Bey could have just sang one place and Etta sing at a few of the balls. Wasn't she sick though?

  22. why is just the young folks who have to reach out and try to bridge the gap? how come Etta James couldn't be a true elder and show some respect as well? i don't give a damn how old you are, if you're coming at me wrong then no, i'm not going to respect you. Etta James ain't got nobody to be mad at but Etta James. i'm sorry, but this is some ignorant folks stuff. where was Etta (or some of you, for that matter) when Christina Aguilera was performing "At Last" seemingly every chance she got? why was Etta James being so fake at the "Cadillac Records" premiere? she should have spoke on it then if she was so inclined. why is this just about Beyonce? this was a historical, iconic, and beautiful moment that is getting mud slung all over it because somebody caused their own feelings to get hurt instead of manning up and congratulating someone else (namely our new president). this lady is acting like 50 Cent's mama or something . . . you gonna whoop someone's ass over this? what the damn hell? Obama's not your president--over THIS? this ish right here? heroin is a hell of a drug.
    *sigh, die*

  23. @ took the words right out of my mouth. Respect is a two way street. If you want, you better give it. And Etta and some other elders really need to check themselves. This tirade against Beyonce & Obama was just ridiculous and uncalled for.

  24. Just found this little nugget on line; Etta went on stage in Seattle last week and told the crowd she's gonna lay the smack down on B for "singin' my song" at Obama's Inauguration Ball. But not only did the 71-year-old not write the song, she wasn't even the first -- or second -- to record it!
    Glenn Miller did it first in 1942, followed by Nat King Cole in 1957. Etta got around to recording it in 1961. In fact, Glenn's version ranked higher on the Billboard Pop Singles chart than Etta's ever did.
    FYI -- neither Miller nor Cole ever threatened to beat Etta's ass -- although it's about time someone knocks some sense into that lady.

  25. Dar, no one said the responsibility of bridging the gap solely rests on the shoulders of the younger generation (I know I didn't). BOTH generations have to do their part. Etta probably didn't say anything at the "Cadillac Records" premiere because at the time 1) It wasn't clear whether Beyonce would actually be performing at any Obama events; though she had been shamelessly begging for months 2) No one--not even Bey herself--knew what song(s) she would be performing IF asked. Christina Aguilera's performance of "At Last" didn't coincide with such a momentous point in history either. I mean, performing at the Grammy's & performing the first black president's inaugural ball don't exactly fall in the same category.
    So, given her tenure in the music industry & specifically her ties with that song, Etta was understandably disappointed. No one is really trying to see this from her P.O.V. What if Obama had gotten the Jonas Brothers to cover Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the USA?" One time may have been okay, but why not get the milk fresh from the cow while the cow is still alive?--If you catch my drift. Bruce probably would've been livid. God forbid if Etta died tomorrow, what's the song that would be listed [front page] under her picture? "At Last" will probably be engraved on her headstone. You know everyone's dropping like flies nowadays. One of the first things you think of when a musician dies is the song(s) they're most remembered for & the unique way they delivered it. Luther Vandross, Gerald Levert, James Brown, Eartha Kitt, etc.
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not 100% behind everything Etta said, but her point is well taken. I say the hell with PC-ness. Back in the day, older folks just use to tell it how it is & the young folks just listened or obeyed (even though we may not have agreed). Etta is straight old skool. I personally wouldn't have gone as far as saying "he ain't my president," but it's about damn time you have someone stand up & give an HONEST opinion for a change. It's that same lack of puttin' folks in check that's got some non-singin' folks (*a-hem!* Rihanna, Ashanti, Cassie--just to name a few) undeservedly cutting records & making millions today.

  26. I just don't understand why Janelle Monae wasn't invited to sing "Mr. President." THAT would've been something to talk about! They could have grooved to the song AND it would have fit in with the theme of the night.

  27. Etta wasn't lying. Beyonce should have sang one of her own songs....oooppppsss...I mean one of the songs she CLAIMS she wrote but stole from someone else. Perhaps, "Single Ladies, Put a Ring on it." Etta didn't imply anything people haven't been saying about Bey for years.

  28. And another thing...Bey had it coming after what she said about the Jacksons. That was just reap what you sew.

  29. No. Beyonce is a force. She has talent. But the kind of singing she does has made her incapable of communicating a song like At Last properly.

  30. Exactly, Tyler! I've been saying the same thing for months. To top it off, prior to the inaug ball, she would sing that song WHEREVER she pleased. She sang it to two of her female fans on 106th & Park. For what?! There's just a certain level of intimacy & passion that song invokes to just be droppin' it anywhere & with anyone, ya know? But she was too busy trying to pull a J-HUD to notice. Christina Aguilera already been there & done that one.

  31. I believe that's one 'comedic moment' she would have done well to keep to herself! C'mon now Miss Etta! You have too much class for that, you're beautiful and it just wasn't your turn to shine! We all know what a big part the young people played in this presidential election - let them do their thang!

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    If you are going to have an event that big, and you want young folks singing, let them write their own songs! I agree they are a large part of his getting elected and a large part of the future. So they should have made sure they reflected the "future!" If you are going to sing an old classic, and the classic singer is still alive, it is a gross insult not to ask her to sing it. Let Beyonce sing her own blasted song. Or let the queens reign! Etta and Aretha in one event might have been more power than American could handle, along with a new black president and first lady. But that ain't Etta's fault! Beyonce, who is generally quite sweet, should have known better. Sometimes, you just have to say no . . . get the one who made it famous. Children need respect!

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    Also, it is true that Etta did not record that song first, but she made it most lasting in our lifetime. Nat King Cole is not longer with us. It is like looking at the versions of Heard it From the Grapevine. If Marvin Gaye were alive, he'd be the first choice to sing it despite the impact that Gladys Knight had with it. His was perhaps bigger, I would imagine, though I might be wrong. It is a delicate matter, but given apples and oranges, at least go for some form of apple.

  34. Wake up folks! If you listened to the audio clip, you can tell she was playing as a segue into her rendition of the song on stage.
    She praised Beyonce's portrayal in the film Cadillac Records,

  35. Beyonce really should have asked before performing Etta James' song; saying that, Etta James is too old to be actin out like that. she knows better. they were both in the wrong but ms James should have addressed it in a more respectable manner.

  36. obama does have big ears and anyone can read so long as the script is in front of their face. i do agree with Mrs. James, that girl had no business singing a song that didn't belong to her to the oh so famous president. especially a song that was a classic and dear to many of miss Etta James's fans.