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. Holla

    Seems to me that Etta James is still living in her better days. She sounds like a woman scorned because she has been replaced by someone prettier and younger. Ms. James, you have a beautiful voice but your ego needs a little adjusting.

    February 5, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  2. larry

    i think james is still upset that no one aksed her input when that movie(cadillac records) was made, which is not how its normally done.

    February 5, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  3. Lou from CT

    Etta needs to calm down – it is possible Mr Obama did not know how to get in touch with her. This is a non-issue.

    February 5, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  4. R&O

    Give us a break, Etta. This song was written in 1941...way before you recorded it in 1960. It was previously recorded by Nat King Cole in 1957 and before that it was in a musical, plus Glenn Miller did it..vocal by Ray Eberle. You don't have soul custody of this song. We LOVED your 1960 rendition, but you should give others a break too.
    Also,you quoted as saying: Obama "ain't your president" ???
    Shame on you.

    February 5, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  5. Elmore

    WHAT!...well he shouldve asked her first I think...but...WHAT

    February 5, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  6. Marlo

    I kinda feel Ms. James on that one.
    On inauguration night, the fascination with beyonce could've been put on pause for the original, genuine article.

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  7. Leslie

    While I disagree with Etta attacking President Obama, I have no problem with her attacking Beyonce Knowles. Beyonce has stepped and squashed so many people on her rise to fame.

    She's stolen songs, kicked out band members she's the modern day Diana Ross greedy and not that talented.

    The Presidential Committee should have contacted Etta James and offered a duet or ask her to be present out of respect. I stated this to all the night this happened. Etta James is an icon who voice is legendary. Beyonce is just a flashy pop star who should go away.

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  8. Brendan

    What are the odds that Etta James is just jealous that Beyonce got to sing for the president and she did not?

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  9. Ms Jelks

    I am appalled that Ms James would say such a thing about Beyonce who apparently has nothing but admiration for her. If she felt that way why did she appear totally approved of her performance in the film portraying her? Shame on you Ms James and the language you used about physical harm to Beyonce. I was too an admirer of yours, but now I totally disappointed in your comments.

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. laWanda Williams

    WOW, SHE SOUNDS VERY IGNORANT. HOW OLD IS SHE? WTH?

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  11. Cathy O'Dell

    I agree with Etta James. "AT LAST" is her song. Beyonce does not do a good job when she sings that song. She sounded lousy singing it while the President and First Lady danced. Etta James has the best version of that song.....period. Ms. James should have been selected to sing the song for the President and the First Lady.

    Beyonce needs to stick with songs that have a lot of background music and singers to block out her voice. She sang badly in "Dream Girls" as well.

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. Obama Victim

    rock on etta.......not my prez either

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  13. Gary

    Etta James is still alive? Huh. Wouldn't have guessed that.

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  14. Texas Mama

    She was probably high

    February 5, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  15. david

    this lady sounds like she is getting senile, very improper and nasty, maybe she could have learn another song 50 years ago. old lady get , a life , nobody under 40 knows who you are, fly to florida and get a life. Not even in the peak of her carrer (with only one song) she gets closed in voice, personality of beauty to beyonce.

    February 5, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  16. Why Not

    I'm not sure why Ms. James claims it to be "her song" when it was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. She may have recorded a very popular version, however it was first performed by the Glenn Miller
    Orchestra and also recorded by many other artists, including Nat King Cole.

    Beyonce did a beautiful rendition – give her some credit Ms. James. It's a new day.

    February 5, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  17. Hillary Supporter for Obama

    It wasn't so long ago that a comment like that about the President would be labeled "unpatriotic" for not supporting our leader. Hopefully we can prove that we're not more of the same, and let free speech remain free. Although I don't know exactly what James is so upset about so early in the game, she's entitled to her opinion.

    February 5, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  18. Ken

    Ms. James: Get over it!

    February 5, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  19. PAUL

    If she really said that ... she is sounding like a cranky old spoiled lady that needs a nap..

    February 5, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  20. No Incumbents 2010

    At last!

    February 5, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  21. Austin

    I love her music, but that she could be that pissed about someone singing her song as an HOMAGE just sounds egotistical in the biggest way. What is her problem?

    February 5, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  22. St Louie

    Hmmm....looking into this a little further-this song doesn't belong to her! She didn't write it and she was one of many who've performed it over the years. It may be her signature song, but this song was written and performed almost 20 years before she did it! Did those people threaten to whip her a$$ when she performed it and won a grammy?

    February 5, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  23. Charles C

    Etta really sounds immature to threaten to harm someone over a song that Beyonce sang in a movie playing her..(right)?? There's the pic of them together at the Premiere. Oh yeah Etta, he's not the people who live in Canadas' President either!! HA!

    February 5, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  24. Elphie

    Sounds like Etta's getting senile.

    February 5, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  25. Jon H.

    Who cares?

    February 5, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
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