Etta James 1938-2012
The first time I heard the voice of Etta James was approximately two lifetimes ago. I had a studio in a warehouse building in Charlestown, Massachusetts, not far from Bunker Hill. I would go there in the evening and on the weekend and just immerse myself in painting-get totally lost. I always had the radio on, and in my trance-like state I usually didn't hear it. But one day I was arrested by the pain, the passion, the fierceness, of a very distinctive voice. Over the years I became something of a fanatic. As a single mom, I spent lots of hours in my vehicle, shuttling my daughters and taking long road trips between South Carolina and Maryland. We used to stack up the Etta James CDs and sing along with every song, capturing every inflection as Etta sang about heartbreak, sugar on the floor, and hearing the church bells ringing (of course, all she could do was cry). There was so much more to Etta James than that single song made famous by a car commercial and later by a movie and an inauguration ball. Today is her funeral, and I pay respects to a gutsy, brave, gorgeous woman who had been the primary voice in the soundtrack of my life.