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. clysly

    i thought salt n'pepa sang that song?

    February 5, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  2. jay

    Who is Etta James, I have never heard of her.

    February 5, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  3. May

    Not cool what James said about Obama or Beyonce. The song was announced Days before the ball. Plenty of time for James to protest then. Sour grapes isn't becoming

    February 5, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  4. Hudson

    As a proud Canadian, I want to second what 'DR' had to say. I have nothing against Barack, and in fact support a lot of his views, but to say that he's our President too just shows that this woman is getting a little batty, and only reinforces the fact that what she has to say has no merit.

    February 5, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  5. Blue balloons

    And that's why Aretha sang at the inauguration and not "YOU!"

    February 5, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  6. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    Oh come on Ms James... That young lady did a wonderful job singing for The President and Mrs Obama... You wouldn't be showing a little annoyance because you weren't the one ask to sing it, now would you?
    Honey, the world now belongs to the young people of the world and even though you are still a recognized artest, that doesn't mean you get to do the young folks thing. It's time for you to be a gracious old lady and sit back and enjoy your "golden years". I think Beyonce did a fine job singing "your song" . You should be proud for her instead of showing just a hint of old lady meaness. Hardly becoming to a lady of your stature.

    February 5, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  7. treehugger

    Bitter......

    February 5, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  8. Stephie

    she is jealous...

    February 5, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  9. Don

    Somehow I doubt that President Obama had very much involvement in planning the music entertainment for the night. I imagine that he had more important things to be concerned about.

    February 5, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  10. Conrad Bullwinkle

    He ain't my president either

    February 5, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  11. Frank

    Etta is right. He is not my president either. Spoiled brat Beyonce is just used to getting what she wants.

    Show some respect for Etta. She has the right to feel however she wants. She has earned it.

    February 5, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. JCQueipo

    ETTA WHO?? who is this inconsequential person ???

    February 5, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  13. BJ

    That was her song, she has every right to be miffed!

    Go Etta!

    February 5, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. Texas Teacher

    This is small petty stuff! Come on, act your age!

    February 5, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  15. marcia

    Beyonce just HAD to be involved in this event. She begged for it and then announced the name of the song when the committiee said they hoped to keep it a secret. Shows up in an ill-fitted gown with her breasts clearly visible. She is a tacky, overexposed celeb for sure!

    Say what you will about Etta, but I am sure she would have had a bra on to sing for the President and his First Lady.

    Team Etta!! LOL

    February 5, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  16. Navin J

    Oh man, dissing THE MESSIAH .....Etta stay in Canada or the liberal gestapo will crucify you. Freedom of speech is a thing of the past....Change brothers!

    February 5, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  17. jurbyjunk

    3 words: 'green-eyed monster'

    February 5, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  18. KD

    @Obama Victim:
    Do you live in the United States of America? If you do, I'm sorry but according to the same document that makes you a citizen, he is in fact your president.

    Saying that you didn't vote for him, saying that you don't approve of his methods of governance - these are all fine things to say, that's a right you have. But the sooner you accept that he's the only president you've got for at least the next four years, the sooner we can all get to work and try to come up with ideas that work on both sides of the aisle...

    February 5, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  19. Jackie in Dallas

    While I understand Ms James' desire to keep the song she is best identified with to herself, she didn't write it. probably doesn't own the rights to it, and probably wasn't the first to sing it, either. I'm not particularly a Beyonce fan myself, but there's a lot of songs out there that have been covered by lots of artists. Yes, there are certain songs that are best remembered as they were rendered by a specific artist ("Over the Rainbow" will always be linked in my mind to Judy Garland, although there are a lot of good versions of it). That does NOT mean others cannot sing them.

    Etta, dear, as long as you are an American citizen, President Obama is your President. You don't have to like him, you don't have to agree with him, you just have to accept that he is POTUS.

    February 5, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  20. Chris

    Etta..It's the perfect compliment when someone wants to imitate something that you have done in life. Take it for what it was meant to be. If the song wasn't good then no one would want to sing it and certainly no one would have wanted to do a movie about the person that sang it. I want to think with age comes wisdom and because I so want to believe that I am going to choose to ignore what was published by TMZ.

    February 5, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  21. chica

    Thats the problem with people. EVERYBODY has their own likes, dislikes, own taste ect...that is why there are so many choices when it comes to music, cars, clothes, ect.
    We dont all think alike. Why is that such a hard concept to so many people. My taste may not be yours. Its called maturity.

    February 5, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  22. S Callahan

    Oh Etta..I sure hope you were just jivin'.....We know you can sing that song.....but the ball he was at was for the 'young ones'....that is why Beyonce was used I'm sure...it was not meant to offend you.......
    But....now that you have gotten our attention....how about getting on a PBS special...we really do love your songs!

    February 5, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  23. Angela

    Not a politcal story. Just Hollywood rivalry.
    Sounds like Ms. James is a bit jealous of Beyonce. I bet she wouldn't have said that about Obama if she was the one to sing the song.

    February 5, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  24. Tracy

    I'm with Etta on this one. Having "Bouncy" sing at his inaguration was just plain tacky.

    February 5, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  25. Phil SMith

    And, uh, who the hell does this woman think she is again?

    February 5, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
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