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. Purrmaid

    I had no idea Miss James was still alive. How wonderful! If she was no longer able to sing "At Last" due to loss of voice through age or she just didn't want to, my god she should have been afforded the utmost respect and courtesy by being asked for her blessing. Her rendition has been my favorite song of all time since I heard it about 15 years ago. Miss James' richness of voice, the inflections...truly an example of "making a song your own." Listen to Etta James' version ten times, and then listen to Beyonce's version at the inaugural ball or from the movie. You'll be able to pick out the (multiple) times where Beyonce's voice gets horribly shallow. She has an adequate voice for pop, but there is no god-given richness of tone, nor does she possess the ability to maintain depth throughout an entire song. Every Beyonce and Beyonce wannabee owes an immense debt to the courageous women who opened the doors first...Etta, Aretha, Lena, Coco, Tina, etc...and KEPT them open with their amazing talent. Well done ladies! They've earned the right to be respected.

    February 5, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  2. Jerry

    Why do people become so hateful when they get older ? This chick can't sing anymore and Beyonce performed the song 10 times better than Etta James could have at this point. The Obamas knew what they were doing when they asked Beyonce to perform. They probably knew that EJ was a nutcase anyway !!!!!

    February 5, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  3. indygirl

    I love the song and I love Etta James, BUT the way she sang that song 50 yrs ago is not the way it sound when she sings it now. IF you don't believe me, go to YouTube and listen to the original version and how she sounds now. Sorry, but it just doesn't compare.
    She also didn't mind Beyonce playing her part and singing her song in Cadillac Records- because old singers don't sing their songs in a movie about their live. If her voice wasn't good enough for the movie, what makes her think it's good enough for the inauguration.
    However, I do agree with those that say she should have been invited or done a duet. It was tacky not too, even if he is my president!

    February 5, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  4. lucy

    I am a fan to many celebrities. Even so, the following is my view. If I have to choose between paying attention to a favorite celebrities of mine and President Obama. I would definite pay attention to the President. It does not matter much if a celebrity is fat, smoking pot, or being green with envy. Why? Do I really have to answer that question?

    February 5, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  5. davinder

    boo hoo

    February 5, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  6. Tanya

    All I can say is that I didn't realize Beyonce had such a beautiful voice until she sang At Last! I was actually shocked. She always sounded like an average singer to me.

    As far as the James comment, I guess how I can see how she might have been offended – perhaps not to that degree though.

    February 5, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. DAJR

    Yes, Beyonce sung a song that made Etta James famous in the 60's, but here is the kicker....Ms. James this sung this song after several other singers as well (Ray Eberle & Pat Friday and of course Nat King Cole). I am sure these artist are greatful to Ms. James for bringing their names and talents to the young generation of her time. Ms. James be happy that Beyonce has brought your name to the younger generation. Just maybe, knowing that Beyonce sung a song that made you famous will peak the younger generations interest in other songs by you. NO one will ever sing the song as Ms. James does, but it is because of youger artist (singers) remaking songs from the past that our kids learn and appreciate music past and present! Don't hate show some love.

    Mr. Obama is everyones PRESIDENT!

    February 5, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  8. Pat

    I guess negative attention is better than no attention. Sit down Etta James and let the new generation have the spot light you had your chance. You don't wear jealousy well it does not become you . You should be ashamed of yourself. You will be remembered now by these shameful comments instead of all of the great songs that you have given the world. It's our duty to elevate the next generation not tear them down.

    February 5, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  9. Kali K.

    I was sad to hear Etta's remarks. She had a hard life from what was portrayed on Cadillac Records. She should embrace those who cover the song she made famous and not be such a sourpuss.

    February 5, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  10. LL

    Etta James should have been allowed to sing that song... it's HERs! Beyonce was there just to show the Barack is a ROCK STAR!

    February 5, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  11. Christian

    I don't understand the right wingers who apparently want Obama to fail and hate the fact that he is currently popular. If he fails, we all fail (unless you are fabulously wealthy). These are bitter, petty people with the same hard on of hate they had for Bill Clinton. Obama won't stay as popular as he is right now, but he won the popular and electoral vote, so get over it and focus on something constructive. George Bush was an incompetent hack, but I wanted him to be successful because I had to live in this country and economy too. Hell, I prayed for him to be successful. And it would have taken divine intervention to keep him from failing as spectacularly as he did over and over again.

    February 5, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  12. Patricia Tharp

    As people age, young ones take their place, like it or not.

    February 5, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. clarencebrown

    Yall Obama lovers need to chill...he hasn't done anything yet but make himself look stupid. Oh my god someone said something bad about our Fuhrer!! Hang them...lol pathetic sheep

    February 5, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  14. Tell It like it is Etta

    Etta has been recorded this song in 1960 a year Before Mr. Obama
    Was born and it is one of her signature tunes .
    If Aretha is available would you rather hear someone else
    sing Respect probably not.
    She has every right to her opinion, but these days everyone
    just wants to follow along and not ruffle feathers.
    Why didn't they ask.Etta?
    Maybe because Beyonce appeals to a more young hip diverse group of voters for the presidential re-election bid.
    Great marketing indeed :) it seems lately Cnn is turning
    into O.n.n The Obama news network all Obama 24 hours a day
    anyways . I'm confused why people think she is on a drug just
    because her opinion isn't what the majority wants to hear?

    February 5, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  15. JeanO

    I am sure that President Obama, did not pick every singer. As I recall Beyonce came out very early offering to perform at the inauguration, did Etta make an offer? I don't recall hearing about it.

    Either way it sounds like many other are jealous, in addition to Etta.

    Why not work on your looks, Beyonce works out and is young and beautiful, no one should hate her for that. And she can certainly sing better than most of you on this board.

    Etta spent her youth drinking and doing drugs...that is her own fault!!!!!!

    February 5, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  16. marquis

    its so funny listening to people say we drink the koolaid because we support Obama....truth be told you had to drink hard liquor to support Bush. HHmmmm who is it easier to support the well thought out and articulate President Obama or GWB....who is really drinking what?

    February 5, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  17. Shannon

    Oh and there is a correction. She wasnt in Canada when she made the statement. She was in Seattle Washington. Dang CNN get it right@!!!!

    February 5, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  18. Lesley

    They obviously picked Beyonce to appeal to younger people at the neighborhood ball. What they should have done was choose one of her own songs, instead of the very famous Etta James tune. But this critizicing of everything Obama is getting outrageous. I don't remember this kind of nit picking with Bush when he took office. This whole country needs a chill pill.

    February 5, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  19. mkrtown

    She has got to get over it.

    February 5, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  20. Quetta

    Etta knows she is the reason for that song. She has nothing to fear.
    She can do it better than anyone. I regret her feelings were hurt. I don't think The President meant to do that.

    February 5, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  21. Bill

    I heard Etta sing it on her tour this past fall and she's still got it. It was stunning that the legend wasn't asked to sing her song and instead they gave it to a new comer. If you know Etta's feisty history, I'm sure this'll make you smile.

    February 5, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  22. Cynthia; Bham

    If Etta owns the rights to the song they should have gotten her permission and if not to be politically correct may got her blessings. I personally like Etta' s version better but to go so far as to say to whip someone's A is just as bad as not being asked to sing or permission to use it. Maybe President Obama will invite her to the White House for a special occasion and let her do her version of it. She looks good for 70 years of age.

    February 5, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  23. locqsmith

    Old People! Gotta Love 'Em!

    February 5, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  24. Boston Irish

    @ R&O -Also,you quoted as saying: Obama "ain't your president" ???
    Shame on you.

    Okay, so she should have said "he ISN'T my president". Either way, she had the right attitude.

    February 5, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Etta why are you so mad you got a lot of people turnin they backs on you. You use to be my idol. I wantedto be like you so bad, you taught me basically how be a lady. But maiking a comment like that about Beyonce and our new Pre. Mr. OB. Thats just wrong. Beyonce ain't do nothin to you. You allowed her to sing it in the movies what's the diffrence. It's not like she put it on a CD. Then you said Barak ain't your president so why would you want to sing at the inaugaral ball.

    I just ain't comprehenden what you is sayin. You lost me at @$$.

    February 5, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
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