Category Archives: BP #1

Queen of Soul

Etta James was a force to be reckoned with. A true gift to music and a woman of great spirit and courage.

Her raw tone and the passion she put forth on a record spoke to me at a very young age and has continued to influence and inspire me throughout my career. She will NEVER be forgotten, her voice will forever live on and she will inspire talent for generations to come. –Christina Aguilera

“This is a huge loss. Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime. Playing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist. When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph. Her deeply emotional way of delivering a song told her story with no filter. She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed.”-Beyonce

The recent loss of this great singer prompted me to honor her. Etta James died January 20, 2012 at the age of 73. Ms. James left behind a legacy of not only drama but a great legacy of music, inspirations and innovations. Etta started her career during an era when black music was finally getting its notoriety. Her first recording was at the age of 15 “Roll with Me Henry.” Her next song is what kick started her fame “the Wallflower” it was #2 on the R&B charts in 1954. She signed to Chess Records in 1960. She was among great singers such as Chuck Berry, Muddy Walters. During her time there she made popular songs “At Last” and “All I Could Do Was Cry”. Etta has been inducted in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame as well as Blues Hall of Fame. She is the winner of 6 Grammys including one in 2003 for her lifetime achievement she also won 17 Blues Music Awards. Etta was an innovator in the music industry amongst the men she dared to stand out and stand up. Etta was known for making her opinion known and cursing and smoking in public. She dared to sing about the taboo and take control of her career as an artist. I loved how Etta straddled the line between R&B and Rock and Roll she mixed the two and created her own brand, she was versatile in her music she went from racy to sultry tunes. In all her fame she had her downs in her battle with drugs but she states that recovering from drugs helped to shape her in her latter life.

I love how Ms. James led her life she dared to be different during a time when black people let alone black women were not noticed. What women wore platinum blonde and sexy attire? Nobody but Etta James. Etta has been the inspiration of many of today’s singers including Christina Aguilera who names Etta as one of her idols. Looking at the music and the time period when Etta was in her prime years she almost stood alone in the industry. There were artist like Billie Holiday that came before her, but Etta kind of paved the way for women artist to have the freedom to sing about what they wanted. She paved the way for women to have the freedom to be provocative.

Ms. James will truly be missed but we have her music to keep us. 

Beyonce Sings “All I Could Do Was Cry” in her portrayal as Etta James in Cadillac Records

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The Mad Black Woman

Just recently, Michelle Obama defended her character as books such as “The Obamas” depict her as an “angry black woman”. There are rumors that she is a forceful, powerful, behind the scenes player who constantly clashes with the President’s top advisors because she is frustrated and unhappy to be in the White House. The First Lady denies  these stereotypical images and while she admits she is a strong woman, she has no reason to be angry.

Click the link to watch the interview yourself! Michelle Obama’s Interview with CBS

Watching this interview on CBS News, I feel that this most definitely relates to African-American Feminism. Black women, especially those with a strong personality, are quickly described or referred to as the “mad black woman”. This title is a stereotypical image because in actuality not all black women are mad, crazy, bitter, jealous, or angry. Not to say that black women aren’t entitled to some anger as historically they have considered “unattractive” due to their dark skin and kinky hair.

Society has pinned black women against each other as differences are pointed out and become the focal point for conflict. In addition, black women are more likely to have a single parent home structure, be at risk for diseases and cancers such as HIV/AIDs, and receive less wages for the same job in comparison to their other counter parts. Black women are incarcerated at higher rates than their Whites or Hispanics counterparts.

Despite all these reasons to be angry, many black women are working against this stereotype and rising above it. They are increasing their influence in the political, educational, and business sector of the economy. They are reducing their dependency on receiving assistance from a man or the government. They are also proving to be exceptional role models for their daughters as they are providing them strength in their self-identity!

So will all the positive advancement African-American women are making today, who would be in a position to be the “angry” one?