Etta James vs. Beyonce: 'At Last,' the catfight you knew was coming
If you love a good celebrity catfight–and really, who among usdoesn’t?–then congratulations, friend! This is shaping up to be a very good week for you. First came the utterlylopsided Faye Dunaway/Hilary Duff tiff, which centered on that bizarro Bonnie & Clyde update and brought both of thoseladies back into the headlines after a long spell of irrelevance. Nowcomes word that 71-year-old soul legend Etta James has turned on noneother than Beyonce Knowles, who so memorably portrayed her in last year’s overlooked film Cadillac Records. I guess all of those platitudes that Etta showered on Beyonce when the movie came out were uttered through gritted teeth, ’cause at a Seattle concert last week, Etta complained about not being asked to sing her signature song, “At Last,” during President Barack Obama’s first dance with his wife, Michelle. “You guys know your president, right?” she asked the crowd. “The one with the big ears?” (Rude, Etta!) “He ain’t my president. He might be yours…” she continued, before adding that “that woman he had singing for him…she’s gonna get her ass whipped. The great Beyonce…I can’t stand Beyonce.”
WHOA. Look, it’s understandable that James feels slighted, but from a purely economic point of view, the sight of Beyonce–a woman who, rightly or wrongly, is treated as nothing less than a modern-day deity by plenty of her fans–singing to the nation’s first African-American president and his wife was sure as hell going to draw a lot more eyeballs to the TV set than a performance by Etta James. (Sorry to be ageist, but it’s the truth. Also, I’m not sure I’d recognize Etta James if you physically placed her in my living room.) But beyond that, I’m mystified by this outburst. I love when old ladies speak their minds, but this just seems classless and undignified, especially for a verified legend like Etta. As much as she may want to believe it, the President’s first dance–nay, the entire Inauguration–was not about her.
There’s a purported audio clip of the tirade right here. Take a listen, and then tell me if you think Etta was justified. And even if you think she is, do you think she handled her anger in the right way?