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. hdrider69

    Sounds like the "projects" coming out of her. You can take the girl out of the projects, but.....you know the rest!

    February 5, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  2. vcr

    Can Etta even sing anymore???????? Beyonce sounded beautiful and Etta's comments were tasteless.

    February 5, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  3. educated Ron

    Nothing

    Just upset she wasn't the one singing. Bitter like a republican who clings to guns.

    February 5, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  4. Shannon

    Although I dont agree with the name calling of our President. I do agree with Etta James. The performance of "At Last" should have been done by her. If they wanted Beyoncee, she should have done one of her on songs. Wait, the President couldnt dance to Single Ladies for his first dance. And to the one that stated Beyoncees version is better than Etta cant hear, or sing or know what real musical talent is. Beyonce is ok, but she will never compare to Etta James pure raw talent. Beyonce, just because you played her in the movie, which was a lack luster performance, doesnt mean you are as good as her. Etta dont whoop her @#%$!!! She young and just dont know!!!

    February 5, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  5. benjamin

    THE ONLY REASON WHY ETTA WASNT INVITED TO SING WAS THE FEAR OF HER FALSE TEETH FALLING OFF...

    February 5, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  6. Lysheen

    I think most entertainers are like Etta James: beautiful, talented, arrogant and no substance. This is fine when they're young and beautiful and famous, but not so great when they're old and washed up.

    Good looks only last so long. It exemplifies why intelligence, integrity and substance are so important!

    February 5, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  7. Real

    The name James is quite fitting because she does indeed look a like man. And one tha's not easy on the eye.

    February 5, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  8. Adam

    The song wasn't even written by Etta James. It was originally written in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. Glenn Miller's version was already relatively famous before she re-made it. It's a bit hypocritical of her to get mad at Beyonce for doing the same thing she did herself.

    February 5, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  9. Ronny in NY

    Dang! Still, I doubt she voted for McCain... if she voted at all....

    February 5, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  10. Brennan, Seattle WA

    Etta James is amazing in concert. She is a great singer and I think she enjoys being controversial. I don't agree with her on this one, but if you ever get a chance to see her in concert you will enjoy it. You will also know that she is not shy and she speaks her mind. She can sing for Obama when he gets reelected in 2012.

    February 5, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  11. Red

    Hey Etta,

    Bitter, Jealous, Washed Up, Petty. Take your pick, they all apply to you!! Why don't you try to put out a hit song more than once every 25 years!!

    February 5, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. T

    At least Beyonce should have asked her permission.

    February 5, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  13. Manny

    They should have had Etta sing, and have Beyonce up on stage shakin' her moneymaker.

    February 5, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  14. gabe

    she sounds like a pretty mature person

    February 5, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  15. Bon

    She is supposed to be an example to us younger ones. What happened to humility. That old bat needs to sit down and take her metamucil!!! She had one hit and she thinks she all that....please. OLD HATER..LOL!!!

    February 5, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  16. LE

    Beyonce was chosen so ABC could get ratings and nothing more. Let's get real. President Obama and his committee wanted eye candy other the real deal. I love Obama, but that is how I feel and how I have felt from the start. Then she shows up with a dress you could see through. It felt superficial and wrong.

    Etta is now saying she was joking, but she says she would have liked to sing the song she made famous herself. In other words, she meant it but didn't mean for it to come out so harshly.

    February 5, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  17. WOW

    It says something about our country when
    1. This article is on the front page of cnn.com
    2. 111 people decide it is an important enough topic to leave a post (myself included).
    3. people choose to criticize Obama for who was singing at the inauguration. Do you think maybe, just maybe Mr. Obama was not the party planner for this event? Maybe he was a bit more concerned about his speech or the swearing in? This is just rediculous!!

    February 5, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  18. Nimchimpsky905

    Funny, I don't remember Canada electing Barack Obama as President. In fact, my country does not even have a President. We have a prime minister (who, like Etta James, happens to be an idiot). We'd be happy to trade, though. For Obama, not James.

    February 5, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  19. tjaman

    Back under your rock.

    February 5, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  20. Steve

    She's saying now that she was kidding.

    Time for an update.

    February 5, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  21. Rochelle

    NOW WHAT'S A PRESIDENT TO DO WHEN BEYONCE WENT ON A MEDIA BLITZ BEGGING AND GROVELING TO SING?

    SHE DIDN'T GET THE ROLE OF EFFIE, WONDER WOMAN, OR TO SING AT THE DNC CONVENTION- JENNIFER HUDSON IS GETTING IN HER WAY....AGAIN AND DADDY KNOWLES AIN'T HAVIN IT!

    February 5, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  22. Marlon

    Wow! I thought Etta James died already.

    February 5, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  23. Suzie

    Etta really showed her azz! How tack and unprofessional can you get? Honey, you sang the song but you don't own it. Grow up!

    February 5, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  24. Dadx3

    This is news? Honestly, who cares? Etta James is just upset that her record sales and royalties didn't get a boost because she wasn't picked to perform a song at the inauguration (it also sounds like she was probably drunk while making her slanderous remarks).

    Problem is, she doesn't own the rights to the song–her label does–so if they feel compelled to allow Beyonce to sing it, that's their prerogative. And you know what? Who the President chooses to sing for him and his wife at his inauguration? That's HIS prerogative, too. It's his party. If I hired a singer to perform this song at my daughter's wedding, I wouldn't expect Etta James to be offended that I didn't ask her personally. The only reason she's doing this is for media attention and because she's sour grapes.

    February 5, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  25. smb

    beachgirl, Etta James was indeed born in the 1930's...1938.

    As for the rest, they managed to ask Aretha, who did NOT sound good, for whatever reason. James should at least have been asked.

    February 5, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
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