The Queen Is Dead The Song Lives On
The last great Blues Shouter from that holy relic, Chess Records, has up and died. She could rock, she could roll she knew the meaning of soul. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the page, The Queen of Soul, the divine Miss Etta James.
We first dallied together in a loveless town in the east of england in the radio home of brit doyen of the blues, Alexis Korner, one of the big men behind the white blues boom. His sunday night show was one of the few that I'd religiously wait in for. He taught me Stalin wasn't Stalling. He gave me history and then he made me say hello to a voice that I'd carry with me into the future.
Ladies and gentlemen give it up. One more time for the Queen of Soul, the blessed Miss Etta James. In this blues revue, the song that came over the airwaves to crush my aching heart, the song that welled up the tears, birthed a forever lump in the front of my throat, and bore my lively tread down was the truth testament, the wailed warning of the Queen of Soul's, Etta James, I'd Rather Go Blind.
The obituaries tell the tale of Etta's quite extraordinary life. Catch Garth Cartwright's one from the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jan/20/etta-james. It evidences the 4 Real qualities that carried in the sledgehammer soul of that great big shouty voice. Understand that it is no lack of significance that bought her portrait to the front page of the Independent for the simple act of dying. But realise this is no tribute to the queen of soul, Etta James. This is about the song, I'd Rather Go Blind.
Spotify it now kids and let it break your heart. Like all the great songs, somewhere over the rainbow, it passes the covers test. Rod the Mod couldn't crash it, Stan Webb's Chickenshack, couldn't chintz it down, I'd bet Beyonce couldn't burn it down for it would be Beyonce who would take it past the second test; the gruelling trial of time.
As I first heard it 20 years after its release so Beyonce would cover it 20 years after me. Adele would say she knew she would have to sing after buying the Queen of Soul, Miss Etta James, and I'd bet that it was 'I'd Rather Go Blind' that gave her that information because as the strings build and the chorus hits again you can't help but sing 'I'd Rather Go Blind' - for the other test it passes it passes is a truth test stating that anyone who has really loved and then really lost may probably, given a choice,rather go blind themselves.
And this is where my other life long dalliance with the song comes in. As a disability equality trainer shouldn't I be railing against this politically incorrect piece of sentimental hokum, this slight song idea that describes a very sad piece of a life story, calling it the very worst thing that could possibly happen and then equating it with acquiring an impairment?
Surely I should be standing up and saying this is just so hackneyed, I've heard this in song a thousand times and this is just so not on, This is so wrong. Surely I should but surely I won't and surely I can't. And that's all down to the performance of the song and the passing of a third test. 'I'd Rather Go Blind' by the Queen of Soul, Miss Etta James, in her passing shows its true indestructible nature. I'd Rather Go Blind survives death. 'I'd Rather Goes Blind' keeps on jumping from the grave, 'I'd Rather Go Blind' will be reborn, over and over again, forever.
Posted by Rich Downes, 24 January 2012
Last modified by Rich Downes, 24 January 2012