The incredible talent that passes our way we never take for granted, but somehow assume they'll be around forever. I guess you could say that about Etta James.
Ironic that she and another great talent, Johnny Otis, should also leave almost on the same day. It was in the late 1960's, when Otis played regularly around Los Angeles with The Johnny Otis Show, featuring his particular galaxy of immortals like Joe Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and Etta James all onstage, in one place and for one staggering performance after the next. And later in the early 1970's, periodically showing up at The Troubadour in West Hollywood or The Total Experience on Crenshaw, for a show that featured other luminaries like Bobby "Blue" Bland or B.B. King for night after night of what seemed like an embarrassment of riches - I never took them for granted, but I assumed they'd be around forever.
Life doesn't work like that.
And so Etta James isn't here anymore, and her years of failing health were some indication it wouldn't be forever. But still. . .
I ran across this concert she did in 1994 in San Francisco. Her voice maybe a little rougher around the edges, but the soul intact, the power still there. My buddy and C&L colleague Mike Finnigan, who I think is on Hammond B-3 for this show, gigged with her for a number of years and never grew tired of it. He always said what a great experience it was, and how much the audiences loved her.
That goes for a lot of us.
Thank you for all those unforgettable nights.