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Remembering The Music Of The Matriarch Of The Blues

Roland Godefroy
Creative Commons
Etta James in 1990, performing in Normandie, France.

Etta James, the legendary singer regarded as the 'Matriarch of the Blues', passed away on Friday, January 20th. She was 73 and leaves behind an incredible legacy of instantly recognizable performances.

Many a wedding has featured what is a James' classic in "At Last". Originally written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the musical film Orchestra Wives. Etta James covered the song in 1960, and her version was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame in 1999.

Her years at Chess Records saw an influence from Gospel music in her repertoire. "Something's Got A Hold On Me" was a hit both on R&B and the Top 40 charts.

No other song really embodies the powerful voice Etta James wielded than "I Just Wanna Make Love To You". Strangely enough, this song will forever be linked with another James' classic, "At Last", as it was the B-side for that same 1960 single.

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  • The "Matriarch of the Blues" had grit in her voice that could melt like sugar or rub like salt in a wound. The great vocalist, whose turbulent life broke through in her affecting delivery, has died at age 73.
  • Her hits included The Wallflower, Something's Got a Hold on Me, and the wedding favorite At Last.James had leukemia. She would have turned 74 next Wednesday.