February 5th, 2009
10:44 PM ET
5 years ago

Singer disses Obama, Beyonce

Beyonce and James together at the Cadillac Records premiere.
Beyonce and James together at the Cadillac Records premiere.

(CNN) - The entertainment world may be in a swoon over Barack Obama, but one legendary soul singer is fuming at the new president and the pop star who serenaded the first couple on inauguration night.

Etta James, famous for her rendition of the song “At Last,” is apparently miffed that pop star Beyonce was tapped to perform the ballad as the president and first lady slow-danced during the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball on January 20.

“You guys know your president, right?” the singer asked an audience in Canada last week, according to audio posted on TMZ.com. “You know the one with big ears? Yeah, wait a minute. He ain’t my president.”

She then went after Beyonce: “That woman singing for him, singing my song? She’s gonna get her ass whipped.”

James added that she “can’t stand Beyonce” and that the starlet “has no business up there singing, singing up there on a big old President day, singing my song that I been singing forever.”

But is James flip-flopping on Beyonce? She did not raise an objection when the singer portrayed her in the film “Cadillac Records” - and just recently, James’s son told a New York paper that his mother was moved by the inauguration night performance.


Filed under: Extra • President Obama
soundoff (681 Responses)
  1. Tunstall

    I agree with Etta James, she actually made that song a very big hit
    and Beyonce didn't to it justice."Not like the, :"Etta James"

    February 5, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  2. The Edge, Macon, GA

    Good way to get some free publicity....sour grapes....Etta James is a ground breaker, but after the ground is broken, someone else is allowed to build on it....chill....

    February 5, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  3. dan

    The fact that she asked a Canadian audience if they knew their President (Canada doesn't have a President) makes anything else she says meaningless. Sounds to me like she didn't even know where she was.

    February 5, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  4. YES WE DID

    ETTA JAMES needs a nice bowl of prunes and trip to Shady Pines.

    February 5, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  5. kickapoodude

    It is clear that she is clueless because she said "your president" to a canadian audience.

    February 5, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  6. Zach Lee

    Really Etta? He ain't your president now? Well "at last" isn't even your song. She didn't write it, she sang it beautifully though. I don't understand her animosity here. Sounds like someone should lay off the pills.

    February 5, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  7. stevie

    legend to me means came and went. so put up or shut up. you are history period. adios.

    February 5, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  8. lol

    etta go home. so obvious she is jealous of beyonce. i'm glad i wasn't the only one confused by the fact that she was speaking to a canadian audience. what a moron etta!

    February 5, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  9. MsLadyFromDC

    I listened to a recording of what she said on another website earlier today and it sounded to me like Etta James really was joking around about President Obama and Beyonce.

    I love all of them, therfore am giving Etta James the benefit of the doubt. Let's wait to hear what her response to this mess is before jumping the gun.

    February 5, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  10. Grace, MD

    Etta, Etta, Etta... what has gotten into you girlfriend.

    This whole juvenile tirade is NOT becoming a legendary singer such as yourself.

    First of all, your claim is only "singing" the song. You did not write the song and do not OWN the rights to the song. Therefore, legally it really is NOT your song. This is just shameful when a African Americans take on the "crabs in the barrel" mentality. WHY can't we just be PROUD of one another and encourage each other to succeed? WHY is that Etta?

    You should be very PROUD my sister that the younger generation like Beyonce honors your talent and legacy. We as a people need to stop allowing ourselves to be "stereotyped" in such a disrespectful manner.

    WE come from a RICH and PROUD Ancestory. It's time we started acting like we are PROUD of each other and stop trying to pull each other down. There's enough love to go around, but hate and ugliness only spreads like a cancer.

    Where is the love for ALL sistas, young and old?

    February 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  11. Felicia

    The media, cnn, fox news, matt lauder, all you people, are trying to bring President Obama down. What it is you people probably feel like one AA man getting too much attention, so you will find anything to bring him down. That bit about jessica simpson if you say you cleared it up why are you still posing questions like he said something wrong. I'm glad President Obama didn't respond he doesn't owe us an explanation of something so irrelavant.

    February 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  12. Pamela

    Etta James she ought to be a shame of herself. Down playing black folks like that. She need to stop hating and enjoy our president; she act like McCann should have gotten the position. Etta, at last your time is up.

    February 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  13. Karan

    You've all got it wrong, she is rightfully angry...whether it was written way before she made it her song or not, the people who planned Obama's party could and should have asked Ms. James to be their singer. I have seen Ms. James in concert more than once...she can be fun, she can be a bit bawdy and raunchy, she can growl and roar and make you laugh until you hurt.

    Beyonce was chosen to promote the "image" of youth and beauty that this country seems so over the top for. We can age gracefully and with wisdom to be sure...she just spoke out of anger & frustration. Shooot...I'd be angry too! I was angry for her when I'd heard Beyonce was scheduled to sing. I watched most to all of the coverage of the inuauguration, EXCEPT for that. Whenever that image came up, I became disgusted, expressed my regret for them not having chosen Etta, the original. Whoever planned that party made a major faux pas on that issue.

    Like none of us has never said or made comments out of anger? Give the lady the break she deserves...yeeesh! We all vent from time to time, our comments are not recorded for the world to see and hear. I feel for Ms. James, she was definitely dissed. I will continue to love her and her music. I can do without Beyonce. Never could stand her, her attitude, her treatment of others. Those who use their sex appeal to sell their music rather than just their actual talent is reprehensible (nice role modeling). There are plenty of young ladies out there who handle themselves with a lot more respect for themselves and their public. And there are a lot of seasoned ladies out there who may no longer be youthful and beautiful according to media sales standards...but I agree with a previous poster, Etta will live on in infamy whereas Beyonce will be just a pretty flash in the pan of life.

    Move on people, leave Etta alone! She is an American icon AND a living legend. Nuff said...

    February 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  14. AriesKingthe1st

    My apologies to the last quote "DR". This is to be addressed to "Jack"

    February 5, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  15. John M

    Divas.

    February 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. David

    Hi Etta!

    I just deleted your songs from my music files – I only have room for artistic performances of self centered blues – not literal whiners. Real life requires better behavior.

    February 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  17. he is NOT the chosen one after all

    RIGHT ON ETTA ! !!!!!

    February 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  18. Rumsfeld

    I got 'a bag of hush for your bitterness.

    February 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  19. cheri

    Ignorant, undignified, jealous has been. Get a life. Etta. You are too old to act so childish. Beyonce on the other hand was too dignified to respond.

    February 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  20. ann

    Shame on Etta James....jealousy is ugly no matter how old you are!!!

    February 5, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  21. Mich

    Hey! Hello everyone, It's "President Obama".

    February 5, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  22. mischa

    HEEHEEHEE!!! Somebody told the truth FINALLY!!! A LOT of people feel like Etta, trust me.

    February 5, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  23. Tony

    I agree with a couple others. The title should have read,
    Singer, Etta James, dissed, blah blah. Not the way it is written.
    Although all decisions are not made directly by Obama himself, there are many people including myself, that are upset with the decisions that were made by his committee for the inauguration night.
    On the subject of Beyonce, shes ok, but not a legend. In the end, she will be a has been and someone will take her place.

    February 5, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  24. jo

    I am a huge etta james fan. maybe she could have done it better.
    however to be black, american, and a woman i have to say i am
    appalled at her comments about "my president". hate beyounce all
    you want, but leave my president, alone.

    February 5, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  25. Joe Jance

    It isn't her song. It was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. Maybe if she had written it then I would get why she is upset she wasn't included.

    February 5, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
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