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. Grace, MD

    With ALL due respect Ms. James, but your comments was just way out of line and disgraceful coming from a woman of your stature. You may have sung the song, you may have made the song famous, but you just dishonored yourself by making such a disrespectful tirade in public.

    It showed your lack grace and integrity as an entertainer. Whether you voted for President Obama or not, it was truly beneath you to rant and rage over a song you claim as YOURS in front of an audience!!

    A true DIVA would have been honored to have his/her song represented during the most historical event of the century, a TRUE entertainer would have RISEN above this type of childish-tantrum mentality!!

    February 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. In Wonder

    Wow, that's just sad. Sounding very bitter right now.

    February 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. Jay Kingston

    GO ETTA!! Amen. Its nice to hear of real talent call out the fake!!!! I dont know about the Obama commentas. I fully support him but was a horrible selection to sing that night!!

    February 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. just me!

    LOL! Love it!

    February 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  5. Da Man

    Heresy! Heresy! You CAN'T be black and 'dis The President or his ears! It's forbidden!!!

    February 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  6. ashley

    I thought it was really weird that Etta James didnt sing HER song. Granted Beyonce has every right to sing when asked but not someone elses song without added permission.

    February 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  7. CEPJ

    Get over it.

    February 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. Wilbur Parts

    Etta James is still alive?

    February 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  9. JB

    OOoooo sounds like someone woke up on the wrong side of her cage.

    Doesn't she sound like a pleasant soul...not.

    February 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  10. kayla

    etta james just jealous because she is old and cannot compete with beyonce. YOU HAD YOUR TURN, IT IS SOMEBODY'S TURN NOW. AND BY THE WAY. HE IS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. YOU OLD BAT.

    February 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. St Louie

    Wow! As they say, jealousy is just not very becoming! What happened to imitation being the best form of flattery? Shame on you Ms James!

    February 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. Kevin Johnson

    really? political news?

    February 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. Tommy

    Isn't she 71 years old. Please I'll take the younger version over the older... Beyonce' performed very well as her in the last movie and it was fitting for her to do the song. EJ – please don't whine!

    February 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. let's be real

    Cmon now, it's TMZ... what a stupid article.

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. Jane

    Another thing, as far as our "president" Barack Obama. Well, he is the first American Idol president, as he is more concerned with having his face appear on US Magazine, a tabloid! He does not deserve to be leading our nation!

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. Candice, IN

    Really CNN, did we need to hear this? This is crazy. Who cares what Etta thinks? Beyonce didn't invite herself, someone invited her. Etta should shut up and pretend to be a lady.

    And as for Barack's big ears, I"ll take his big ears any day over George Bush's black heart.

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. ashley

    CNN, you do not know anything about Etta James!! Lol, that woman doesnt flip flop. If she doesnt like something she will tell the truth and not hold back. This woman is a LEGEND!

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  18. Nestor, Austin, TX

    Since she said this about Obama, it's bound to be labeled hatespeech. If she said it about George Bush, it wouldn't even be news.

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  19. yuri

    So that's what it is, hey? Ms. James, Don't you worry your pretty head. You will get a chance to settle the scores with Knowles and Obama. They ain't worth your sterling performance. You go lady. So what gives, otherwise? Are keeping yourself busy?

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  20. norma - wisconsin

    Well Etta:
    I feel sorry for you that you weren't tabbed. I don't know if Barack or Michele personally picked Beyonce' to sing that song – but if its the royalties your worried about – I think you'll still get them because it still was used. As for being irate – do you have a job? Do you have any money in the bank – do you own a home?

    I guess I might be hurt that I wasn't asked, being it would have been your song – but put aside your ego for a minute and try to be a little thankful for the rest of your life and the fact you have all the luxuries you have. The rest of us would love to have your worry or hurt feeling.

    You should enjoy your current successes and think of how blessed you've been.

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  21. Beth

    She's oh so wrong...President Obama IS her president...like it or not. :-)

    I'm thinking there must be some mental issues going on with Ms. James. She obviously didn't have any problems with Beyonce playing her in the movie...so what is the problem now?

    Cranky and bitter, I say...

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  22. Brian, New York

    I agree with Etta James nobody could imagine anyone singing Aretha's songs whether she wrote it or owned it.

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. Torrey

    I had no idea that Obama was the president of Canada... I also do not think that it was Presidents day.... It was Inauguration day... How can anyone take her seriously enough to write an article about it. Really folks...

    February 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  24. HFT in Texas

    This article should have never made it to the news. This woman must have some issues – whipping Beyonce at the age of over 70 – come on now!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. Frayie, Oklahoma City

    And we care, why?

    February 5, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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