2013-03-12 13:18:17 - Introduction: ‘A Rage to Survive’.
“Etta James encompasses all the rich attributes I seek when putting my faith into the artistry of a musician. She was a sincere, ferociously talented lady, with her foundation honed securely within roots music. Blessed with the benefit of a candid persona and strong stage presence, she maintained a proletarian appeal that transcended her humble origins. I would suggest it is not the fragmented facts or challenging narrative of Etta James’s life that are paramount, but her unsurpassed musical catalogue. Etta’s greatest triumph was simply the purity of her music and her musical legacy will always reign supreme- she was no doubt a challenging musical icon and one of the greatest singers of our time”.
Excerpts from the new eBook tribute to Etta James by Stephanie Lynne Thorburn, ‘Ode to Etta’.
-The digital book contains two biographical studies, original portraiture artwork by the author, archival links and educational resources on Etta James.
Special contribution: from Bill Wyman, who offers some personal reflections on Etta’s music and legacy. An insightful testimonial from Etta James’s Musical Director, guitarist Brian Ray has also been added with source links.
See author’s page on True Fire:
Excerpts & Biography.
“Etta James was no doubt a challenging musical icon. She did not conform to media orientated ideals, although she remained tangibly beautiful. She enjoyed a tremendous Indian summer in her recording work and was not fully acknowledged artistically until some of her greatest achievements were accomplished during the latter part of her illustrious career. Her first Grammy was won in 1994 for ‘Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday’, with her induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of fame taking place in 1993, and her autobiography ‘Rage to Survive’ co-written with David Ritz being published in 1995. She won further Grammy’s for ‘Let’s Roll’ in 2003 and in 2005 for
‘Blues to the Bone’ and a Lifetime Achievement Award. Six Grammys in total and seventeen Blues Music awards is an astounding series of accolades! Etta is therefore considered to be a consummate artist, eclipsing the space between the related genres of R & B and modern Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Etta James had the ability to become submerged in the heart and soul of musical history and played her role as both a muse, artistic protagonist and ultimately as a true matriarch within the industry. She worked during her career for a range of distinguished labels including Modern, Chess Records in the ‘60’s, MCA Records, EMI and Virgin.
Etta’s death last year in 2012 inspired many first-class reflective editorials on her remarkable career; a vast majority of these, celebrated her life. There are many artists who are said to have not fulfilled their potential commercially or to have been fully appreciated within the echelons of the elites of the music industry. The mere fact that so many editorials point toward this anomaly is curious, and it is evident that during and after Etta James’s life, she was actually very well loved. She succeeded in inspiring many generations of singers from Bonnie Raitt to Christine Aguilera and was a true ‘musician’s musician’. Reading her autobiography, it is refreshing simply to encounter memoirs of a childhood not spent in suffering as often suggested, but rather an organic lived experience, without the clutter of modern living that can obscure personal development. Her joy of life and resolute temperament is conveyed in the life-force and spirit of all her original vinyl recordings.
I think there is little doubt that Etta’s legacy will continue as an eternal flame and her contribution to music from R & B to soul has not simply been that of enrichment by her presence. Fundamentally Etta’s fans have been blessed through her work as a founding Matriarch of modern music. The mercurial elements of fire, water, humility and tenderness are enshrined in her artistic catalogue, which is a true Aladdin’s cave to explore. Her persona also urges us not to judge, but to simply appreciate and to be in awe of the strength of human talent and resoluteness, when faced with challenging personal circumstances and poverty. Etta is a quintessential Matriarch of R & B; the passing of time will not dampen her life or legacy. She performed from a fundamental emotional space, and called on her personal ‘warriors’ to project and convey both depth and musical resonance into her performances. Etta was a truly inspiring and spiritual human being.”
Stephanie Lynne Thorburn. Feb 2013.
For full text, see the new eBook tribute by Stephanie Thorburn ‘Ode to Etta James’:
References & Resources.
There have been some wonderful illustrative obituaries and tributes to Etta James in the media, here are some informative references and recommendations: -
BBC News- Obituary of Etta James, ‘Etta James: Soul Legend Dies in California’. 20th January 2012.
Colorlines.com. ‘A Political Obituary of Etta James’, Kenyon Farrow. January 24th 2012.
The Guardian. Etta James Obituary- ‘Blues and Soul Singer with a Raw, Emotional Vocal Style’, By Garth Cartwright. 20th January 2012
*‘Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story’, by Etta James & David Ritz. The authorised bio. DaCapo press, reprinted June 2003.