Singer Etta James Dies at 73

Etta James, the singer who turned “At Last” into a multi-generational standard and was an acknowledged influence on singers from Janis Joplin to Melissa Etheridge and Christina Aguilera, is gone not long after her voice was quieted.


Honoring Etta James: 7 Versions of ‘At Last’


James, who was 73, died on Friday (Jan. 20) in Riverside, Calif., after a long period of declining health, including kidney failure, leukemia and dementia. The singer has been hospitalized since mid-December, and on Dec. 23 her longtime manager Lupe De-Leon announced she was placed on a respirator.


James has been inactive since early 2010, when it was announced she was suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. She announced that she was formally retiring from music just before the Oct. 25 release of her final studio album, “The Dreamer;” in a statement James said that, “I wish to thank all my fans who have shown me love and support over all these years. I love you all.”


Photos: Etta James Through the Years


Aguilera cited James as a crucial influence on her own singing style “because she was so emotional and soulful but at the same time very elegant and classy.” Aguilera adds that James also gave her some sage career advice.


“She said, ‘Don’t pay attention to any of the negativity out there. You keep doing what you’re doing and don’t care what other people think,’ ” Aguilera remembered. “She was so down to earth and so real. She called me an old soul and said that my voice reminded her of almost a Janis Joplin to a Diana Washington. She made my life wtih her compliments and the things she had to say.”


/> Beverly McClellan, Aguilera’s protege on NBC’s “The Voice,” told that, “I got turned on to Etta James in, probably, 2003 and I got a chance to see her under the starts at this quaint thing with about 250 people. I bought her barbecue and was like, ‘Man, this is the best day of my life.’ Her voice was so inspiring…”


James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, to an unknown father (she once speculated it was billiards great Rudolf “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone) and an inattentive mother who left her to a variety of others to raise, sometimes in abusive domestic situations. James started singing when she was five years old, in the Echoes of Eden choir at Los Angeles’ St. Paul Baptist Church.


James moved to San Francisco when she was 12 and soon became part of a doo-wop group called the Creolettes. The group changed its name to the Peaches and, through the patronage of Johnny Otisscored a No. 1 R&B hit with “The Wallflower (Dance With Me, Henry)” — an answer song to Hank Ballard‘s “Work With Me, Annie” — in 1955.


James left the Peaches shortly thereafter, signing with the Argo imprint of Chess Records in 1960 and starting a string of hits that included a pair of duets with Harvey Fuqua — “If I Can’t Have You” and “Spoonful” — and her own “All I Could Do is Cry” and “My Dearest Darling.” She also sang backup for other Chess artists, including Chuck Berry on “Back in the USA.


“At Last,” her signature song, was the idea of Chess co-founder Leonard Chess, who felt that James’ voice was suited for a ballad. “I wasn’t sure about that at first — shows you what I knew,” she remembered with a laugh during the early 90s. “At Last” — originally written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the 1941 film musical “Orchestra Wives” — hit No. 2 on the R&B chart in 1962 and went No. 47 pop and went on to be covered by scores of artists, including Aguilera, Mariah CareyJoni Mitchell,Aretha FranklinLiza MinnelliElla FitzgeraldNat King Cole and Miles Davis. It remained her best-known musical moment, though she logged more hits such as “Trust In Me,” “The Fool That I Am,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” “Stop the Wedding” and “Pushover.”


James remained with Chess until 1978 but began battling heroin addiction during the mid-60s, not kicking it until 1974. She was also treated for substance abuse at the Betty Ford Center in 1988 and for painkiller dependence in 2010, and she battled obesity throughout her life.


James kept the music coming, however, with highlights that included opening for the Rolling Stones during the mid-80s and winning rave reviews for her 1989 Jerry Wexler-produced album “The Seven Year Itch,” which was her first studio album in seven years. She also recorded a version of Muddy Waters‘ “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” for a popular Coca-Cola commercial, which gave James a Top 10 hit in the U.K. during 1996.


Bobby Murray, James’ guitarist since 1988, said that even in later years James’ talent remaiend “exceptional. What she does with a song is…amazing. And she’s seen so much from different eras. She was kind of around for the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and the early years of R&B, certainly the golden age of soul. She even did a gig with the Grateful Dead. It’s quite a history.”


James, who published her memoir “Rage To Survive: The Etta James Story” in 2003, received one of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s first Pioneer Awards in 1989 and an NAACP Image Award in 1990. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Rockabilly Hall of fame in 2001, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003 and the Billboard R&B Founders Award in 2006. She won three Grammy Awards plus a Lifetime Achievement honor in 2003, as well as nine Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year awards from the Blues Foundation. Rolling Stone magazine ranked her No. 22 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, and No. 62 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists.


James made headlines in 2009, following a performance of “At Last” by Beyonce — who portrayed her in the Chess Records film “Cadillac Records” — at the inaugural ball for President Barack Obama. Eight days later James trashed Beyonce on stage in Seattle, threatening that the younger singer would “get her ass whipped.” She later explained she was joking, though she was genuinely hurt that she wasn’t invited to perform the song herself. Her son Donto later attributed the comments to the early onset of Alzheimer’s.


Donto and his brother, Sametto, played drums and bass, respectively, in their mother’s band. The two recently reached an agreement over management of the estate with their stepfather, Artie Mills, who married James in 1969 and is her estate’s conservator.



Musician Gil Scott-Heron Dies at age 62

Musician Gil Scott-Heron, who helped lay the groundwork for rap by fusing minimalistic percussion, political expression and spoken-word poetry on songs such as “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” died Friday at age 62.

A friend, Doris C. Nolan, who answered the telephone listed for his Manhattan recording company, said he died in the afternoon at St. Luke’s Hospital after becoming sick upon returning from a European trip.

“We’re all sort of shattered,” she said
Scott-Heron’s influence on rap was such that he sometimes was referred to as the Godfather of Rap, a title he rejected.

“If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating `hooks,’ which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion,” he wrote in the introduction to his 1990 collection of poems, “Now and Then.”

He referred to his signature mix of percussion, politics and performed poetry as bluesology or Third World music. But then he said it was simply “black music or black American music.”

“Because Black Americans are now a tremendously diverse essence of all the places we’ve come from and the music and rhythms we brought with us,” he wrote.

Nevertheless, his influence on generations of rappers has been demonstrated through sampling of his recordings by artists, including Kanye West.

Scott-Heron recorded the song that would make him famous, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which critiqued mass media, for the album “125th and Lenox” in Harlem in the 1970s. He followed up that recording with more than a dozen albums, initially collaborating with musician Brian Jackson. His most recent album was “I’m New Here,” which he began recording in 2007 and was released in 2010.

Radiohead Releases “King of Limbs”

Radiohead’s new album “The King of Limbs” was released digitally Friday morning (Feb. 18) on the band’s website, one day ahead of schedule. The band had previously announcedon Monday that the album would be available Saturday.


“The Kings of Limbs” is available for download at, and fans who pre-ordered the set should have received a download code via email. Physical release is slated for Mar. 28 overseas (on XL Records) and one day later in North America (on TBD Records).


An accompanying music video for the track “Lotus Flower” has also been released, and in the black-and-white clip, Thom Yorke writhes and dances against a minimalist backdrop.





Jazz/Folk/Gospel Vocalist Lizz Wright

ISD Media had the privilege experiencing a LOVELY evening with singer/songwriter Lizz Wright, as she performed at San Diego’s Anthology this past Thursday night. Her voice felt like velvet draped around a chilly evening while captivating a large yet intimate audience, singing her hits like “Stop”, “A song for Mia” and closed out the show with “Amazing Grace”. I can honestly say…that she is one of the best vocalist of this generation that radio does not hear enough of!! That.. WE NEED TO CHANGE!! Enjoy 🙂

Natasha Ridley – Artist Profile PART II

With part II of our interview with Dancer/Choreographer Natasha Ridley. We had some burning questions to ask her. Like…why do entertainers from San Diego that go on to achieve stardom never acknowledge that they are from our beautiful city? Hmmm…right? Well you will just have to watch to find out!

Natasha Ridley – Artist Profile PART I

We have just wrapped our second show with Dancer/Choreographer Natasha Ridley. Roger and I used what we learned from the first show (including our areas of opportunity) and came up with an even greater product!!
When I look at the footage, I could not help but laugh and about two things. My over use of the words YOU KNOW!! And..the crumbled up NAPKIN in back of Natasha! LOL! Oh well…things get better in time right??
As we interviewed Natasha she had such great energy as she explained so passionately about her talent and craft. She was so kind enough to not only interview with us but to share her gift of dance.  The interview took place at ” The Wood Room” dance studios in addition to Natasha’s intimate performance.  ISD would like to say big thank you’s to “The Wood Room” for sharing there beautiful studios with us and big hugs also to the beautifully talented and spirited Natasha Ridley! 
Lots of love to you and thanks so much for watching 🙂

JAZZ 88.3fm

Want to listen to some great JAZZ? Tune in tomorrow to JAZZ 88.3fm and check out a their show called “City Stories” at 6:30pm pst. ISD Media’s host Gary Brown will be on air to showcase his feature story about homeschooling. Incase you miss it, we will provide you with more information on how to listen.


Roy de Vries – Artist Profile

This day marks the launch of ISD and we are so excited to be here!! Since this is our first video and although we are new at this, we are so very proud of  what we have accomplished. In spite of all the areas of opportunity that occurred (i.e. sound quality, interview etc) while making this, we only ask that you give us a chance. Now let’s move on ward and up ward!

When we first met Roy,  we discovered that he had so much to offer to the San Diego Art community.  From his travels from the Netherlands Antilles, to here in California. It was his passion and life experiences that intrigued us in doing this story.  It was shot at SD Space 4 Art, which provides affordable work/live spaces for 40 of San Diego’s Artists and Designers.  ISD hopes this story finds you…and allows you to come again soon so we can continue to grow and improve.  Thanks for watching!