It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: “At Last” by Etta James.
In the fifties and early sixties, an amazing group of female singers emerged to give American audiences some of the best vocals ever heard in the history of popular music. These included Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, Della Reese, Julie London, Sarah Vaughan, and Abby Lincoln.
Of this group, I have especially taken a hankering to the music of Dinah Washington, Patsy Cline and Etta James. It wasn’t just that they had great voices. It was as if they were reaching down deep into their souls and pulling up all the pain they had and pouring it out for the world to hear. That pouring out has a name. It’s called the Blues.
Some artists can take all their feelings and make them into great art. These three do that. When I hear their music, it makes me realize that I am not alone in feeling what I am feeling. I can experience deeply what they are feeling.
Etta’s “At Last” is a pure gem. Oh my, Etta can sing. With this one, she makes love all her own. It’s not just love. It’s Love with a capital L. And she’s giving everything to it. This is High Art. This is Van Gogh painting the starry night. This is Richard Burton doing the “To be or not to be” soliloquy. This is Martha Graham dancing “Lamentation”. This is Elizabeth Bishop making poems.
To get caught up in this song is to let yourself go and feel something human. Very little allows us to do that these days. Mostly we are given doses of plastic that cut us off from our fellow human beings. Then we hear Etta James or Patsy Cline or Dinah Washington and we suddenly are busting out of our cocoons. We have heard something true.