On January 20, 2012 Etta James died. I didn’t even know she was still alive.
I found out on Twitter–my chief platform for finding out about celebrity deaths and LOLcat aggregation. I felt bad instantly. I knew her more popular songs, I knew she was a legend, but I did not know she was still alive.
When a famous musician dies, radio stations fill their top hours with the artist’s music–as if they planned on playing it regardless. Your hipstery friends race to see who can tweet the earliest recording of the artist. You hear their music and realize that they were one of the big mystery voices you’ve heard a dozen times, but never known who the singer was. Well, now you do, but maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.
People whom you had no idea cared about the musician now throw themselves into fandom. You watch a few YouTube videos and are impressed by their talent, you google their younger pictures, you agree that it’s a shame. You see a few impolite jokes about their death, you laugh then feel worst. At least, that’s what I do.
I am guilty because I feel my lack of attention killed her. If she were still singing and we were still listening, I would at least know she was alive. Was she still singing? Now I feel worst.
Christina Aguilera sang Etta’s hit “At Last” at her funeral. I don’t think I would want someone else to sing my song at my funeral; but I don’t have any songs and everyone talks as if Christina and Etta had an understanding. I certainly want someone who has an understanding of me. Christina said, “out of all the singers I’ve ever heard, she was the one that cut right to my soul and spoke to me. ” I didn’t have that relationship with Ms. James. In fact, because Etta was so influential to some and I didn’t forge a deep relationship I feel like I’ve missed out and it would be vulgar to go back and retrieve her now.
Ms. James won six Grammies. She is also credited with bridging rock n’ roll and R &B. One of her nicknames was “Miss Peaches” and she had a cute little beauty mark to the left of her lips. Etta did the cats eye make-up long before Amy Winehouse and she rocked the black-on-blonde look way before Nicki ever Minaji-ed.
She was amazing and we’ve lost her and many of us didn’t even know she was still around. When people who are tanning in the spotlight stop producing we quickly focus on something else. Is it wrong that we forget them?
I feel responsible because I should know better. I’m supposed to listen to good music and not let a talent like hers slip away. Do musicians live on if their music doesn’t stop getting played? Did I kill her by not knowing it’s her voice in Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling?” Can knowing that resurrect her now?
Etta James is gone, but we can certainly pay respect. Maybe revising her work is the best way to do it. Or maybe the best way to honor an artist you missed out on is to find a new musician of your own, forge a relationship with them and don’t let them go.
If you’ve only heard one recording of one Etta James song, then this is probably it. So please, join me in appreciating a fantastic piece of art.
- My banner ads are realllly trying to sell me a classy evening gown, no thanks Jose! Time ago 4 Days
- Had a pretty serious, "Joe, your balloon animals are slipping." intervention today. #summercamp Time ago 5 Days
- How to Be Funny on Twitter, by Expert Funny Tweeter Megan Amram t.co/721vJZ5Fk5 @vulture Time ago 6 Days
- @sanjaysharma1 #businessmajor Time ago 7 Days
- @KateGsUp Me two honey bunch, BUT I did just teach a youngster how to play the spoons. Fair? Time ago 7 Days
Follow @JoeWadlington on twitter.
Air your grievances/ask your questions: