Not many artists are as singularly identified with a single song as Etta James is with the title track from today’s album, “At Last”. This timeless ballad of romantic redemption has been the soundtrack to more movie scenes and varied playlists than I can count, and the album it is featured on is the 191st rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
While “At Last” is the most impactful and memorable song from this album, there are several other selections that had a notable impact on me. I loved the mood-capturing allure of “A Sunday Kind of Love”, as I find that the day of the week and what is ahead or behind on the calendar can be a great mood influencer. She added a powerful take on the Willie Dixon song “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, showing a different side of her sound that previews a look ahead to the raw intensity of Janis Joplin, later this decade. Aside from her most famous song, I believe my favorite recording on this album is the slow and lamenting “Stormy Weather”. This song is dripping with the unique style of Etta James, and serves as the painful reminder that love can vanish as quickly as it emerges.
Like many artists of her time, Etta had her share of personal struggles with substance abuse, as well as financial and legal troubles. Thankfully, she was able to persevere and lived a longer life with extended periods of career rebirth and renewed health before her passing in 2012. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t know of Etta James, or at least her hallmark song, but if for some reason you aren’t familiar or if it has just been a while, do yourself a favor at put this one on…. “At Last.”