Hip-Hop Media Training

Etta James Disses Beyonce’s Inauguration Performance

Hip-Hop Media Training

It's safe to assume that Beyoncé's portrayal of Etta James in the retro film Cadillac Records did not impress the legendary soul singer.

The 71-year-old pioneer, who rose to fame in 1950s, recently made it clear that she was not a fan of the self-proclaimed diva whose third solo album I Am...Sasha Fierce is the #3 album in the country.

Before performing "At Last" at Seattle's Paramount Theatre last Wednesday, James complained about Beyoncé' singing the song for President Obama and wife Michelle's first dance at the Neighborhood Ball.

"You know that woman he had singing for him, singing my song, she's going to get her a-- whipped," Etta said to a thunderous applause. She went on to add that she could not "stand" Beyoncé'.

Some dismiss James' anger as jealously, saying that she is only upset because she was not invited to perform the song herself.

However, James' anger warrants the asking of a few key questions:

Did anyone from Obama or Beyoncé''s camps contact James beforehand to seek her blessing?

Since Etta is not credited as a songwriter for "At Last," she technically does not have the authority to approve who sings the song. However, considering the significance of the song being performed at the inauguration ball for the first African American president and furthermore the song being used for the president's first dance with the first lady, consulting James beforehand would have been the honorable thing to do. I know that appropriate clearances were already in place for Beyoncé to perform the song for the promotion of Cadillac Records, but the inauguration is a historical, not promotional, event.

Additionally, based on James' rant, she is not a fan of the president either. When addressing the Seattle crowd, she referred to Obama as "your president...the one with the big ears," and added, "he's not my president."

Was James even considered to sing or even invited to the inauguration?

Let's be honest, would the inauguration committee have asked Beyoncé to sing an Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross or Tina Turner song in lieu of having their involvement? We all know the answer to that question. Since Etta has said that she is not a supporter of Obama, had she received an invite or not, maybe she would not have attended. To take it a step further, if Etta had made it clear that she did not want any ties to Obama, why then would they use her staple song to celebrate his first day of presidency?

Ironically, the day following Beyoncé's January 20 performance, James' son Donto James was quoted in the New York Daily News saying that his mother loved the rendition. "She thought it was great," Donto said. "She's gotten emotional, just like everybody else."

This isn't the first time Beyoncé has caught flack from one of her predecessors. Almost exactly one year ago, I blogged about a tongue lashing Beyoncé received from Aretha Franklin. The Queen Of Soul was upset with Beyonce for referring to Tina Turner as "the Queen" during an introduction at last year's Grammys.

In this instance, I sided with Beyoncé. I agree that Aretha is the sole Queen Of Soul, but also acknowledge that Tina Turner, too, is a queen.

In the case of Etta James, I take Etta's side. Though her reaction is crass for someone of her stature, I feel that she was robbed of a moment in history. Considering her struggles to break into the music business in the 1950s and ability to prevail with such great success (she was inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993), she should have had the opportunity to sing the song (that she popularized) for the president.

If "At Last" had not been significant and did not express the message that the inauguration committee wanted to convey, they would haves elected another song. But they wanted "At Last."

I bet Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" wasn't even up for discussion.

A representative for Beyoncé said that the singer does not have a statement or comment at this time.


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