by Sean Maloney
Sorry folks, but your regularly scheduled round-up of local hip-hop is going to have to wait a week. P&B headquarters is shutting down to mourn the loss of one of the greatest R&B singers of all time: the incredible Etta James. She's not technically local, but she cut Rocks the House here at the New Era Club in the early '60s, and since that's maybe the greatest live record ever, we can at least partially claim her as our own. Seriously, Rocks is a perfect album — do yourself a favor and put it on repeat. For days.
While I'm sure that there are a million-and-a-half music journalists cranking out well-researched tributes to James' long, storied career and the monster impact of her music, I'm just going to say this: If it weren't for Etta James I would not be a happily married man. When my wife and I first started dating, like a week into our relationship, she had one of those girly-type meltdowns and had Dashboard Confessional on the stereo. If there's one thing I can't stand — and I'm sure loyal readers have figured this one out — it's milquetoast emo and overt displays of emotion. I was totally ready to dump her ass right there and then, because listening to Dashboard is — in my weird little world — a dump-able offense. But then Etta James came on the stereo and I thought to myself, "Maybe I'll give this chick another chance." Eight years later, we're still together, happier than ever, all because of Ms. Etta James.
And I'll guess that this isn't going to be the only memorial in which James figures prominently in the author's personal life. James made the kind of music that clings to your soul and never lets go, the sort of music that weaves itself into your life and never leaves. Hers is a catalog of unrivaled power and beauty, softness and grit, a compendium of the human condition that will resonate long after every last Dashboard fan is dead and buried. But I don't need to tell you that — I'm sure you already know.
Now, let's watch some videos and shed a couple tears for one of the greatest singers to ever step in front of a mic.