The one and only Etta James. It is sad to think we have just only recently lost Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins) on January 20, 2012. She was born January 25, 1938 and she died five days before her birthday on which she would have been 74 years old. James was known as an American singer-songwriter. Her style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, jazz, R&B, soul, rock and gospel. Whenever anyone thinks of the jazz classic “At Last” they think of Etta James. Etta’s version as compared to versions by other jazz singers, belonged to her.
James was married to her husband Artis Mills, whom she married in 1969. They had two sons, Donto and Sametto. Both started performing with their mother — Donto played drums at Montreux in 1993, and Sametto played bass guitar circa 2003 with his mom. Etta James battled with Heroin addiction for years and her husband Mr. Mills served a 10-year prison sentence for heroin possession.
From 1989, James received over 30 awards and recognitions from eight different organizations, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which organizes the Grammys.
Now perhaps more trendy than ever Etta James is a “cult hero” with producers and remixers waiting in line to remix her legendary sound and style. We continue to hear her though samples in rap, hip hop, electronic and pop music of today. Her legacy lives on through blues and jazz singers in clubs worldwide honoring her sound. Here she is singing “At Last” as only she could. And the second video is of a young Etta James singing “Got A Hold On Me.”
At Last (live) [VIDEO] – Etta James
Somethings Got A Hold On Me (Live) [VIDEO] – Etta James
ESSENCE.com’s “New and Next” column spotlights the brightest new talents Essence thinks we should know.
New and Next recently featured jazz and soul singer and Harlem resident Azania. Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa but raised in Geneva, Switzerland, the classically-trained singer’s sound takes from her multi-cultural background—she calls it a “mix of 70s soul, some gospel and some jazz.”
Azania (pronounced Azanya) was born in Boston but grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where her mother worked for the United Nations. She started singing professionally at the age of fourteen working with many different bands traveling Europe. She won the French TV competition, ‘Graines de Star,” an American Idol-style show, and was heralded as “the next Whitney Houston.” Later, Azania decided to make her way to the US two years ago. “The US is the ultimate challenge, and the biggest market. I love the spirit here.”
Azania is also very involved in All As One (allasone.org), a Sierra Leonean charity that is dedicated to providing the orphaned children of Sierra Leone a loving home, medical care, and schooling. AAO provides shelter, medical care, education, meals, clothes, social activities and love for the children. A dollar a day can literally save a child’s life.
Her advice for aspiring musicians is “No matter what your circumstances or problems are, instead of worrying about what’s wrong in your life and your challenges, focus your energy on what you do have, be deeply grateful for it and do the best you can with those things to move forward.”
Recording artist and producer Jeremiah Abiah who has worked with Azania’s says: “Azania has quickly garnered the kind of tenacity one needs to be successful here. Not only is she beautiful but she is a talented songstress aiming to make a difference.”
For those who don’t know, you need to know. For those who do know, you don’t need me telling you why Rachelle Ferrell is so respected and admired by all of our musical greats and in the jazz community. There is a reason Jennifer Hudson, Gladys Night, Stevie Wonder and the list goes on and on, can be found at one her live performances. With a little bit of Sarah Vaughan to a little bit of just about everything but the kitchen sink, this contemporary jazz artist creates, channels and delivers styles that nobody has even heard of yet. This is someone that was born to sing and perform music. We hear over and over about certain singers and hopeful talent rising up in the business who are tagged with the word unique. I’m encouraged to watch these new singers to develop and grow. Rachelle Ferrell on the other hand is the definition of the word “unique.”
But don’t take my word for it just listen to what “the voice” can do.
Here are two videos (live) below showing off her jaw dropping vocal abilities and her passionate commitment in how it is delivered.
Rachelle Ferrell – I Can Explain (live)
Rachelle Ferrell & Jennifer Hudson, Improvisational (live) moment on stage
A Song For You, was written by Leon Russell in 1970 and is considered an American classic. Many performers have sang this song, from jazz icons to pop superstar Elton John. But nobody has sang it quite like Donny Hathaway. This song is a great example of how a really powerful ballad can transcend all genres and styles of singers from rock to soul, blues to jazz, pop to country. Donny’s version brings out the soulful core of this heartfelt classic with his distinct vocal timing and texture and emotion bringing it to a level that few performers can reach with such conviction and truth. You really believe those lyrics that he is singing. There is no doubt in our minds that he has lived this song and he commands our complete attention with that touch of church added to it from his early gospel roots where he sang in the church choir with his Grandmother, who was a professional gospel singer herself. It definitely ranks in the top 10 songs written of all time, if not in the top five.
Donny Edward Hathaway was an American jazz, blues, soul, and gospel vocalist and musician. Known for his own songs and solo career he also had many hits with vocalist and friend Roberta Flack, including “Where Is The Love” and “The Closer I Get To You”. His friendship with Roberta Flack goes back to college days where they attended Howard University together and remained friends until Donny’s death in 1979. It is reported Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York’s Essex House hotel. He had jumped from his balcony. His life ended way too soon as it is written he had battled with psychological issues throughout the best part of his career. He began to suffer from severe bouts of depression and it was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Over the course of the 1970s, Hathaway’s mental instability wreaked havoc on his life and required several hospitalizations. The effects of his melancholia also drove a wedge in Flack and Hathaway’s friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the successful release of “The Closer I Get To You” in 1978. Flack and Hathaway then resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets.
Hathaway and his wife, Eulaulah, had two daughters, Eulaulah Donyll (Lalah Hathaway) and Kenya. Lalah has enjoyed a successful solo career, while Kenya is one of the three backing vocalists on the hit TV program American Idol. He also had another daughter, Donnita Hathaway. If you do not have any music by Donny Hathaway here is a great starter album for you to buy A Donny Hathaway Collection. He remains one of the finest singers of our time.
Here is Donny Hathaway singing 1) A Song For You and below it is the original version, 2) A Song For You by Leon Russell. Not just anyone can write a song like this. When you listen to Leon’s version, you can almost hear the song “visually” through his humble conviction and the sincerity in which he sings it. A timeless song transcends through all musical styles. The final video is a duet with Roberta Flack, 3) You Are My Heaven, which was co-written by Stevie Wonder for Donny Hathaway. He had a lot of angels in his corner. A very sad ending for an incredible talent. As one of the commenters writes in the comments section below, “this is music at its best.”