Throwback Thursday — The One and Only Etta James!

Ever since I heard that Beyonce was gearing up to play Etta James in a biopic, I’ve had a little knot of worry in my stomach. I don’t stan for Bey, but I do admire her work ethic and I do definitely think she’s talented (that extended mix of Get Me Bodied makes me wanna shake it EVERYtime). I’m just skeptical about this. Because I LOVE me some Etta James and I want to see her story brought to the screen with the panache she deserves.

I’m curious about which parts of the story they tell, and how. Etta James might look like an adorable little kitten (doesn’t she?) but she’s a musical legend known for being notoriously fierce and feisty. She’s struggled with her weight and with drugs. She’s spanned musical genres. Hers would be a challenging role for an experienced actress, in my opinion. Notice that I’m trying to phrase this as carefully as I can. I’ve seen it happen on other sites, and I’m not ready for the Beyonce army to rise against me!

So I’ll just leave it like that. And to remind you all of the wonder that is Etta, here she is in 1962. Her cat’s eye makeup showed Amy Winehouse the way, and she’s giving that trademark grit and sass while wearing a super cute cardigan. Something’s got a hold on me — oh, it must be love!

In case you were wondering, Etta is still around and looking amazing. She lost over 200 pounds after stomach surgery (not sure what kind, LOL at her bio where it says check name of surgery. Get on that STAT, Etta James’ webmaster!). Her latest album, All The Way features her belting out covers of Purple Rain, Imagine, Holding Back the Years, and It’s a Man’s World. Her voice has deepened with age, but it’s still a magnificent and emotive instrument. If you want vintage Etta, songs like At Last and Sunday Kind of Love, check out At Last. It’s a definite classic to add to your collection.

** edited at 2:38 a.m. Friday — so I had no idea at the time I posted this little homage, but Etta James has addressed my concerns! Via Page Six — “I wasn’t as bourgie as she is, she’s bourgeois. She knows how to be a lady, she’s like a model. I wasn’t like that… I smoked in the bathroom in school, I was kinda arrogant, so those are some of the things I would want to tell her.” I’m glad Etta’s going to coach her through this. Although a part of me does dread the inevitable At Last remake, I’d definitely watch this movie. I love a good biopic.

And for the record, I also think Jill Scott or Raven Symone might have made an excellent choice for this role. But, could either actress bring the box office mojo?

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Comments

  1. I was upset when I heard about this too. I LOVE ETTA JAMES. I do not think Beyonce has a voice anywhere near Etta’s so how could she portray her in a movie. They could have found someone else, but then again they probably wouldnt bring as many people into the movie theater. Beyonce’s voice may be nice but its not as soulful.

  2. Mrs.Mckinzie says:

    I like Etta and Beyonce ,and I can’t wait to see the movie i’m sure that it’s going to be quite interesting to see if Beyonce can earn that “Oscar “this time.

  3. Love, love, love Etta James! From the classic At Last (walked down the aisle to it at our wedding) to the sassy Tell Mama, Etta is a force to be reckoned with.

    Echoing other sentiments – I’m not sure how well Beyonce will do in this role. But, B is one heck of a performer, and that may be enough for her to do the role justice.

    Great choice for Throwback Thursday – thank you!

  4. I saw this announcement in the trades at work and screamed. This is just wrong! Etta is amazing.

  5. unknowndiva says:

    I LOVE At Last…it’s one of my fave songs ever. I never knew what the woman who sang it looked like though.
    Thanks for this ode to an obvious Queen!!!

  6. Great googly moogly why don’t I listen to Ms Etta EVERY day?!!! A great Etta jam a day keeps the doctor away. It’s in the JAMA. Check it out. I don’t hate Bey, I don’t love her. I lean toward feeling her voice is ok and she’s a hardworking performer however she is NOT an actress. She’s a two by four with doe eyes on the screen. Etta deserves the same treatment Tina got from Angela Basset. Sadly it doesn’t look like that will happen. I hope upon all hope Beyonce has talents we have yet to see. Thanks Bella for putting up that fabulous clip.

  7. I agree with Parker. I would rather see an up and coming starlette play Etta James than to see Beyonce (whom I truly do adore) in the role. That was the power of Angela Bassett’s Tina. Ms. Bassett acted the HECK out of that role, and let the true que–errummm–diva’s vocal supremacy shine through.

  8. Miss Etta is The Truth! Beyonce is a terrific performer, but she’s not an actress. If I had more confidence in her acting abilities, I’d be 100% behind this project. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  9. Oooo, oooo, ooooo!!! Love me some Etta!!! “At Last” has always been one of my favorite songs. She’s inimitable, but I do agree that the attempt with Beyonce is not the best one, though I think Beyonce is a great and hardworking performer, in the way that Janet is. Etta has an incredibly complex past, and a fabo voice, and has done so much! It would be nice if they were using someone who could truly represent. However, on the flip side, as Jessica said, maybe they did it for the draw. Maybe some kids who wouldn’t have gone if Bey wasn’t playing the role will go and get curious about Etta. I still wish they had chosen someone with more cred in the drama department, though. They’re out there. And if the movie is good enough, they will come. I was thinking about what Jamie Foxx and Angela did for Ray and Tina — they brought so much skill to their roles and the music was so good that a whole new generation of people got turned on to their music, and others fell in love again with it. But who knows, maybe we’ll be surprised.

  10. She probably got her stomach stapled.

  11. I think Mary J. Blidge would have been great as Etta James, but they look nothing alike so I guess that couldn’t be a go…maybe Beyonce will do a good job…but from what i’ve seen of her actin work…i am not too confident…plus Etta is a bluesy soul singer and Beyonce does R&B pop music.

  12. Yeah, see…i’m a little nervous. bey is talented, but she needs to go to acting school….I dunno. I just don’t see it. I’m concerned about the acting b/c if that’s tight, they can just have the person lip sync…this may sound a little crazy to most people, but i think Jurnee Smollett (Great Debaters) or even Raven symone (yes, I said Raven Symone) with some good training could pull it off….I could see them over Beyonce’ definitely….also, Nia Long or Gabby Union (I would love for her to get a big role)….

  13. Jill Scott, maybe, as Etta? The idea of Mariah flashed across my mind, 1)because of your recent post, 2)she took that role in the indi-movie “Tennessee” so she’s still trying to hone her acting chops. But Mimi is possibly too old to be believable in Etta’s doowoop girl group days. Both ladies have it in them vocally, but Jill imho has the upperhand in the thespian dept.

    Or go with an unknown in the lead and some big names playing opposite her.

    Btw, if you have the chance, see Etta live. She still sounds great, and she’s the definition of sassy. I remember in concert she was dissing the young, overly sexed up Brit-clones a few years ago, and cracked “People these days don’t know the difference between a diva and a ‘beav-ah’(beaver).” Preach :-)

  14. Totally love Etta & Totally Love “At Last”-Still a hit!

  15. ladybugfromthechi says:

    Hi Bella! I have been out of site lately regarding commenting however I’ve never stopped visiting your site. Im a bella for life. I just heard about Beyonce possibly playing Etta James in a movie. I love Etta and I love Beyonce however I agree that although I’d love to see Beyonce doing an exceptional job in this role, I think it would take someone with the kind of sass and appeal like a Queen Latifah to play the role. Queen can sing and is an exceptional actress. I also think it would be nice to see a full figured actress such as maybe Queen Latifah or Jill Scott in this kind of role. I wondered why no one mentioned Queen Latifah yet…so I figured I would be the first. She is actually the first actress that came to mind when I heard that a movie was being made about Etta’s life.

  16. I think Alicia could really be made up to look like her and she also has that smoky earthy voice like Etta’s.

  17. BlackHoney says:

    Jennifer Hudson and no one last. She has the grit, the pipes and attitude to do Miss Etta. She was a drug addict, who was on her own at a very early age.

  18. Just showing some love.

    http://boughettonews.blogspot.com/

  19. warrior11209 says:

    I love Etta James – At Last , Tell Momma and Imagine are favs of mine. I do not think Bey has the acting chops or the soulful voice to pull this one off – Baby Boomers who grew up on Etta James will not be happy.Great choice for Throwback Thursday!!!!!!!

  20. Mary J. or Jennifer Hudson or Biggy’s widow..Faith??

  21. I think Raven would be excellent but I don’t think Disney would want her to, and she’s stacking her chips via Disney (you go, girl!) and I don’t think she’d risk it right now. Maybe in 5-10.

  22. I wish I knew the right words to say right now, I know B wants an Oscar and when DG didnt do it for her, Im sure she felt slighted;
    1. because they used her and Jamie name to pack seats and
    2. cause she thought she was goona be the star and end up taking back seat to a virtual unknown.

    She was quoted saying that she could have packed on the pounds to play the lead in DG if only the producers would have believed in her…but truth be told, I dont think she wanted that role, like she said she was born to play Deena, it was only after Deena failed to garner her a Oscar that her claws came out. SOOOOOOOOOO yeah B is I suppose trying to make up for what she feels asthough she lost…so I say, let her lipsync and hopefully she just focuses on the acting portion of it, but then I hear she is supposed to be executive producing the thing so…Lord I just hope she dont go overboard in this thing she got about proving people wrong…just lipsync B and nail the acting part of it, cause God knows the acting part of it is gonna be hard enough without having to focus on nailing the voice too!!! All Imma say is Good Luck girl!!!

  23. I love Etta too! I just don’t think Beyonce is a good enough actor to portray Sponge Bob so I know she couldn’t pull off this Legend right here. I won’t be seeing the movie though. Have yall heard Etta’s song “Sugar on the Floor”? Awsome! She said when her baby left she felt like sugar on the floor…have mercy!

  24. Billi Hollidae says:

    I usually don’t comment, but I have to get in on this.
    OF ALLL THE TALENT & SASS THAT SO MANY OTHER UP & COMING ARTIST/ACTRESSES Posses-WHY????? WOULD YOU PUT SOMEONE THAT WE HAVE SEEN A THOUSAND TIMES OVER. WHO is in charge of casting? I love,love,love our pioneer blues & jazz singers, This truly disappoints me. To ignore ETTA’s own request for who she wanted to play in her own movie is crazy to me, but to add insult to injury….Beyonce!?!! I’m sorry, she a good entertainer, but COME ONNNNN. She’s not an actress, she keeps trying: Carmen, “Fighting Temptations”, DG, Pink Panther, and …..whatever else. She was believeable in not one. I’m disappointed.

  25. I think J. Scott could bring the box office numbers. I’m just glad it isn’t centered around Beyonce

  26. Whatsthatcolor says:

    I say Etta James back in 2006 and she gave a wonderful and interesting show. A lot of people hated including my inlaws but I thought it was great. I don’t think Beyonce can capture Etta’s spirt and i’m a Beyonce fan.

  27. I love Etta James, and will definitely have “At Last” playing at my wedding! I am not at all a fan of beyonce and do not think she can make her voice sound like Etta’s, but hey she may surprise everyone… (not holding my breath though)

  28. I love Etta! I admire her so much! I can’t wait to see the movie, to see how Beyonce portrays her. I’m hearing a lot of concerns about Bey and this part. I sure hope she can pull it off because you can’t mess up a role like this… you just can’t! Not Etta James life story-A woman who sings from the heart and soul and who is a REAL legend.

    My favorite song of hers is “Waiting for Charlie to Come Home.” I listen to that song ALL the time!

    I am excited to see how good Etta looks! She looks damn good!

  29. I totally agree with you! When I read the interview with Etta speaking on Beyonce playing her I was ready to scream. I wish Hollywood would understand that yes – we want our stories shown on the large screen, but do not underestimate our intelligence by choosing someone who will only make you money and not represent the icon. Beyonce is an awesome performer. But the key word is performer. She is not an Etta James. No amount of voice lessons or studio enhancements will allow this to happen.

    Unfortunately, I must admit that I will more than likely not see the movie mainly because she was cast. I will be even more honest and admit I have not seen Dreamgirls for the same reason. Too bad because it would be awesome if a movie about Etta James could have the same impact as Lady Sings the Blues about the fabulous Billie Holliday.

  30. Maleficent says:

    It would be fabulous if all of ya’ll would give this girl a CHANCE before you completely knock her down. Etta is. So why shouldn’t the rest of the world? She is not a fabulous actress, but with each film she tackles, she gets a little better and a little more believable. Up until now she’s never HAD a role with any substance or meat to it. Even in Dreamgirls, Deena Jones was essentially a pretty idiot who Curtis molded into the superstar based on her look not her sound. She had to play a woman cowed, controlled and guided. I think she did a good job of it.

    Etta here, her life was meatier, seedier, bluesier, more interesting and teeth-sink-in-able.

    Give Beyonce the benefit of the doubt. With Etta herself coaching, mentoring and guiding her, she may very well suprise all of us and do a good job.

    Don’t count the girl out; she’s got the drive!

  31. Has anyone noticed the vid related to this is Christina Aguilara singing “At Last”? Hmm…having her play the lead would make an interesting movie!

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