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At last — an end to Etta James vs. Beyonce?

February 7, 2009

Etta JamesSoul queen Etta James is pulling back on her jab at pop star Beyonce, over the version of the longtime James hit song “At Last” that Beyonce performed at an inaugural ball for President Barack Obama.

James told the New York Daily News that when she advised an audience in Seattle on Jan. 28 that she cannot “stand” Beyonce for singing her song, she “didn’t really mean anything.”

“Even as a little child, I’ve always had that comedian kind of attitude,” she told the newspaper, which posted the comments on its Web site late Thursday.

A representative for Beyonce was not available to comment.

Celebrity Web site this week posted a recording of James “the comedian” ripping into Beyonce. The crowd roared with laughter as James said Beyonce was going to “get her ass whipped” for singing her song. But James, 71, appeared to be in a joking mood, at one point remarking on Obama’s “big ears” and telling the audience that Beyonce “ain’t mine, and you ain’t mine.” Then she backtracked and told the crowd, “I mean I made a mistake, you are mine.”beyonce  

James’ raucous, funny outburst before she sang “At Last” in Seattle couldn’t be more different from the joyous but solemn performance Beyonce gave for the Obamas, viewable at

Joking aside, James told the New York Daily News that she felt “left out of something that was basically mine” because of Beyonce’s performance of the song.

James’ version of the song is widely known, but it’s not entirely her song. It was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren in 1941 and performed by the likes of Nat King Cole before James took her turn on it.  James’ 1961 recording of the song received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.


It’s up to the person who owns the song whether or not it gets sung for our President or the club down the street. Dot your I’s and Cross your T’s then call it a day.

Posted by Pattie | Report as abusive

I thought Beyonce sang “At Last” beautifully at the inaugural ball. She was the one who deserved to be invited to the event and sing that song to the President and First Lady! I saw Etta James on a recent Blues Cruise and had tears in my eyes when I saw her on stage.
Others laughed and walked out. She performed one more night and cancelled the rest of the shows. We were told she was “under the weather”.

Posted by blues lady | Report as abusive

Sour grapes are NEVER an attractive attitude. Ms. James needs to get over herself and realize that the rest of the world has moved on. No one “owns” a tune.

Posted by Oldage Regrets | Report as abusive

Etta James shouldn’t be too surprised that someone covered her uber popular song…


Etta James is so sorry. She is too old to be making a scene. I’m not that big of a Beyonce fan; however Etta should be lucky someone wants to play her crack out A$%!!! As regarding to the comments about “our” president, It’s people like her that will never allow America to grow because of ignorance like she displayed in her pathetic comeback into show biz!!!

Posted by Dani | Report as abusive

Nikki Giovanni said it best in her poem Nikki Rosa \”I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me because they never understand Black love is Black wealth and they\’ll probably talk about my hard childhood and never understand that all the while I was quite happy.\” This is just another case of European American trying to decipher(quite incorrectly) the ways in which African Americans talk. Etta James is proud and maybe hurt both at the same time. That doesn\’t mean that she HATES Beyonce. Stop taking everything so literally and stop looking for the next great breaking news story in every even that happens.

Posted by Kay | Report as abusive

I think this whole think is a bit of a joke. Etta James is truly a great artist in her own right, and really made the song “At Last” her own, But I do agree with James that it’s an insult to her for the president, not to ask her to sing that song that she made famous, Beyoncee is good, but Etta is still alive and rockin!

Posted by kelly MG | Report as abusive

I do not think there was anything comical about Ms. James’ comment. She sounded genuinely bitter and jealous. “I can’t stand Beyonce” is not funny.

Posted by Liza Mona | Report as abusive

I don’t undesrtand why Etta James is upset about it. that song was written for a musical 20 years before she made it popular in 1961. My point is that, IS NOT HER SONG!!!!!!

Posted by w. ortiz | Report as abusive

I really love both these divas – but Beyonce is NOT Etta and she cannot possiby pull-off a rendition of ‘At Last’ in such a public way whilst the great lady who morally owns the song is still breathing!

Posted by Colleen Banham | Report as abusive

Etta James sounded like a bitter old hater.


It’s really too bad that she acted the way she did, After hearing Beyonce do the cover I went to Itunes immediately and purchased Etta’s version of the song, I had heard it so many times but never actually purchased it … So I guess it was a kind of slap in the face to the people who were inspired to purchase her original after hearing Beyonce’s beautiful version … I thought it was the most appropriate song to sing to our new president. She said what she said and it didn’t not feel to me as though she was “Joking” around … also saying that Obama wasn’t her president … pretty disgraceful. Not to mention the fact that her last album she put out was a combo of cover songs from other artist’s … Kind of Hypocritical on her part to say anything about Beyonce. She should make a public apology to Beyonce Face to Face …

Posted by Ameia | Report as abusive

Etta James is a 71 year old artist who desires to be recognized for the achievements she’s made in her lifetime. Not unusual for ANYONE her of her age or occupation. Her comments can’t be taken seriously. She may have indeed felt “left out” when she was unable to participate in an event that was a HUGE honor for anyone in attendance, be it performer or guest. However, she and everyone else must keep in mind that the President and the First lady danced at TEN balls that night. TEN! So, the last thing on his mind was whether or not he’d done right by Etta James. We must also keep in mind that the President personally invited very few, if any, artists to perform at the inauguration. The event staf handled those details. Blame/thank them for the line up.

Posted by Jen Z | Report as abusive

i cant stand beyonce either!

Posted by foretta | Report as abusive

Etta James doesn’t realize that singers like Beyonce help immortalize her and her songs by introducing them to the younger generation. Well if that’s what she likes, her songs might as well die with her. Now everytime i listen to her album, i realize how a horrible sour ‘diva’ she is. So disappointing.

Posted by josh | Report as abusive

First of all out of respect they should have asked Etta James. However, if Beyonnce was going to sing it. She should not have ripped off all of her licks and phrasing!!!!!!!!!!! THat is wrong wrong wrong!!!!!!!! She should have worked on it and made it her own. That would have been different! Any singer put in that position would have been mad!

You can’t rip someone off like that!!!!!! And she is still alive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


etta is a god.
she can do and say whatever she likes.
its people like her who shaped modern music.
so have some respect, and im sorry beyonce doesn’t compare to this legend.
the end.

Posted by mads | Report as abusive

Etta stop being a hater

Posted by Andrea smith | Report as abusive

I think that Etta James should have sung the song instead of Beyonce. Although few people actually own a song, “At Last” is Etta James’ signature song. And as an honor to an older person who is still alive, should have been the one to the sing the song. To me, Beyonce has not paid her dues to handle such a job. That would be like honoring Beyonce at the Kennedy Center at her early age, when it’s usually for older people. Another example, you don’t go from Private to General in 2 years.

Posted by Felecia | Report as abusive

I USED to not like Beyonce but I think she’s shows terrific high class in the face of the crack ho known as Etta James. Every body and their dog has covered “At Last”. She needs to get off the crack pipe.

Posted by Jackson | Report as abusive

Beyonce is just a fake. She copied everyone. (Search beyonce copies in youtube if you don’t believe me) She is just a fake, no pride in the USA, and she is not grateful that people sacrificed so much so she can be here. Her over the top speaking moment in the inauguration was fake too.

The only thing she has is her looks and her shaking body. Her voice is common. The End!


I did to watch that part of the inaugural ceremony so I can’t tell how Beyounce came through with the song, and I’m not interested going back to watch it online or elsewhere. BUt let me say this… It seeems to me that Etta was rally bitter regardless of the mood in which she spoke… I feel, without being judgmental, that people usually say what they say, mostly from their heart, even if they are not conscoius of it… she said it cos it was in her heart of hearts. NOw she can aplogize, like we all should do, if she feels at this point that she was wrong. But she must forget about those excuses of just being jovial about it.If you joke and still hurt someone you must genuinely apologize but not to excuse your mistake. Let me say that Beyounce is NOT my favorite, and perhaps will never be… but right is right a nd wrong is wrong… nad this time around, Beyounce did nothing wrong… Etta, in my opinion, was all wrong about it. Thanks


i really think as a grown woman etta shouldnt said that. she shouldve been proud that beyonce song her song because she got someone representing her art. she owe beyonce a huge apolige. but when she start joking on obama someone shouldve slaped her. obama is a great man and he made history,his ears are sexy.

Posted by cynthia | Report as abusive

Etta James, is old enough to be Beyonce’s grandmother. She really should be ashamed of the way she carried out. Obama team had the right to invite whoever they wanted to the inauguration. No one has heard from Etta James in years. Many people thought she was dead. She should be grateful that Beyonce’ sang her music which hopefully will eventually make her some money by reviving some cuts she made years and years ago.

I think that Etta James’ behavior was inexcusable. After all, the music is out here for all to enjoy and sing. But unfortunately, Beyonce’ made more money last year than Etta James did in her entire career, and I feel their is just plain JEALOUSY on Etta James’ part. She should openly and personally apologize to Beyonce’, but I doubt if she is woman enough to do that.

As far as Obama’s ears, sorry, we all have something that is not perfect. The Lord just made us that way. And if you look at Etta James, she had many problems that made here imperfect. So who is she to criticize anyone.

The inauguration was a happy time for me and many. It is unfortunate that the likes of Etta James chose to attampt to spoil this occasion. Maybe, that is why she was not invited. But, I am over 60 years old, Etta James was around in my youth. She has not performed anything that I know of in the past 25 or 30 years. So she should be grateful to Beyonce’.

Posted by Lady Day | Report as abusive

Etta’s remarks surely put a damper on what was a beautiful, remarkable, rendition to the song, that was not entirely her song to begin with. I have heard it sung before by Stevie Nicks, for example. Etta’s comments were rude and uncalled for. Beyonce was so proud to sing it for the Obama’s “our” new President, and it was a moving beautiful moment shared by the nation. It’s about time for Etta to do some growing up and realize that sometimes we need to step back and let others shine, that would have been the perfect time for her to have done that!

Posted by Shelly | Report as abusive

Beyonce performed with excellence and hearfelt passion at an historical inaugaration. She can sing and she is beautiful inside and out. She definitely has class. Etta comments may have hurt others but primarily they have hurt Etta and her name, not Beyonce’s. I don’t buy Beyonces records, but I know class when I hear and see it and her performance crossed over all lines that divide us to celebrate an event of which we should all be proud. She performed with such grace and class. Jesse Jackson and Etta James appear more resentful than pleased for what has taken place in our country. Maybe they both have personal regrets that they cannot contain, thus taking it out on those who stand on their shoulders. Thank you Jesse, thank you Etta be proud of the progress you both helped to sustain.

Posted by William | Report as abusive

Maybe Etta was joking when she made a few remarks about Beyonce — you know how people like to take untruths and run with them.

According to Etta’s son, Danto, they watched Beyonce together and Etta enjoyed Beyonce’s performance!

Posted by Marie | Report as abusive

Maybe she was kidding about the whole Beyonce thing, after all, snakes are allowed to have fun too. She needs to get the h*ll out of America though, cause Obama is President here!!!


No need to respond to Ms. James insenuendos. Lady Beyonce
you’re better than that. Continue to show your class. You only gave Etta James her props. The same way that you gave Tina Turner her props. You are Beyonce, not Etta James, Tina Turner or anyone else. There’s only one Beyonce, and your respect for other professionals stamps class on all that you do. Keep up the great work…

Posted by Nimaj | Report as abusive

I love Etta James and I feel her. I grew up listening to Etta and was really happy that she released another, one of her famous ‘heart felt’,songs “Don’t Go To Strangers” , which clearly marks her style.
I was a little upset, that some little talented, pretty face, could be chosen to represent the ‘Great Lady Of Blues’. Seriously, Beyonce is only a pretty face. Remember when the ‘Media’ tried to promote a song, sung by Pat Boone, that had originaly done by ‘Little Richard’? Same thing!

Posted by LLOYD COX | Report as abusive

no doubt about it beyonce took that song and ran with it…and i am NOT a fan of beyonce. she killed it….and i mean that in a good way. step aside ms james, listen and watch a master sing a song from her soul.

Posted by mar | Report as abusive

Regardless of who had sang At Last or how many times before Etta James, no one did a better job with that song or has received the recognition that her version of the song did. Beyonce is a class act, but her version of the song doesn’t compare to Etta James. When most people hear the song titled AT LAST they think of Etta James version. So maybe she didn’t write the song, She was the one that brought life to those words. I hope that this can be resolved in respectful manner.

Posted by lYNN | Report as abusive

I can’t believe that all happened…
People were talking about this for a while.
At first when I heard of this I was like “Oh my gosh!!! What is Etta’s problem?”
But, I guess it was just her joking…
I hope she was for real.
I wonder what Beyonce thought about the whole thing.

Posted by Viki | Report as abusive

According to Etta she was only joking. I’m sure everyone has jokingly commented about something or someone at one time or another i.e. in bad taste or not. We as humans can be so critical at times. Albeit, doesn’t make it right. Beyonce is a star and I’m sure this and or any other comment past, present or future will bother her. Leave it to the money making media to make more of this because we sometimes feed into it.
I’ve always enjoyed Etta singing this song and congratulate Beyonce on all her achievements.

Posted by B | Report as abusive

I have to disagree with just about everyone on here. Etta had every right to be upset and I think Obama made a huge mistake by not choosing her. Etta’s “apology” does not seem sincere – if you listen to the original audio of her comments she was clearly not joking and has nothing but disdain for Beyonce, and rightly so. I don’t know why people seem so afraid to say what they really think about Beyonce. She is highly overrated, WAY over publicized and has a very weak (and annoying) voice. She is nowhere near the talent or legend status of Etta James and never will be. If she was they would have asked her to sing one of her own songs. Plus, she is known for ripping off material and stepping on people to get where she is. I think it’s too bad that Etta’s PR people or whoever made her apologize. She was just being honest.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Frankly, I was personally insulted by Beyonce’s attempt at singing “At Last”…that song belongs to Ms James, as she put it on the map!! This was an historic moment and that little girl did not belong there doing a pitiful version of the song that Ms James does so well! What I would like to know is WHY??? Beyonce does not have any real talent; I was baffled and angered by this…Etta James should have been asked!!

Posted by Char | Report as abusive

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