February 5th, 2009
10:44 PM ET
13 years ago

Singer disses Obama, Beyonce

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/05/art.cadillac.gi.jpg caption="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. 30m-PA-Democrat-voted Clinton then McCain

    Good one! I agree. He's not my president.

    February 5, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  2. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    Very sad!

    February 5, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  3. john

    'Etta James is just white hot jealous because Beyonce's version of "At Last", her song, was infinitely BETTER than hers.'

    that is the most ludicrous thing i've ever heard in my entire life, bar none.

    February 5, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  4. Vanna, KY

    Can you say JEOLOUS? What a thing to say. Etta had her day, it's Beyonce's time. Let her star shine.

    If Etta doesn't want to call Barack her president, so be it. I will gladly call him mine.

    Proud of My President In.....


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

    i think thats absolutely HILARIOUS!

    February 5, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  6. Francis

    Does anyone care??

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

    Does anyone else think this is strange that she said this to an audience in CANADA? Clearly, Barack Obama is not the President of Canda...unless I missed something....

    February 5, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  8. B

    Who cares but yes Beyonce is overrated

    February 5, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  9. Angie S

    I guess any press is better than no press, right Ms. James?

    February 5, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  10. Clearly Departed

    This is why I like old people–they speak their mind and they don't care what anybody thinks.

    February 5, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  11. DemgoneGreen08

    Etta said it best. It was her song to sing. Obama was wrong not to have Etta sing 'At last'. Case closed.

    February 5, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  12. Patrick Tull

    Etta James, your time is up. Beyonce is younger, much more beautiful, and did a great job with the song. The song does not have to be hers to sing it. Who owns the words to the national anthem? This is the generation next era., thank you for your time and contribution. Bye!

    February 5, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  13. TjayeInLA

    Genuinely talented; genuinely beautiful...Beyonce has earned her position. I suppose Etta is just upset because Beyonce didn't shoot her fame and money up her veins.

    February 5, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America! Deal with it! 🙂

    February 5, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  15. Chicken George

    I'm sympathetic to Etta's feelings; she didn't make (write) the song, but she MADE that song and it must be hard being on the sidelines and watching a pop star (mind you, of lesser vocal talent) perform it.

    However, this is her 2nd (of three) statments she's made on this matter. Immediately after the inauguration, she stated she was honored that "her" song was chosen and moved by the performance. Then came this statement. As of this writing, she has issued a third statement saying she was just kidding about the digs at Obama and vehement disapproval of Beyonce.

    James has a long history of drug and alcohol problems and her current demonstration of mood swings is very telling to those who are familiar with such matters. This, and her current day decline in vocal abilities, may explain why she was not asked to perform the song. But I do wish her well–her version is the standard–and I agree with her: I can't stand Beyonce either.

    BTW, one more example debunking the blackfolk groupthink/Obama myth...

    February 5, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  16. Ellen

    I love Etta dearly and have seen her perform many times, and even wondered why they didn't ask her to sing it, but, please . . . Get over it!
    Beyonce did a wonderful job. I figure they were going for the younger crowd (Etta is getting up there).

    February 5, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  17. Simone, NY

    @ D

    To the people bagging on Etta for her quote about the president, did you feel the same way when people like Eminem, Young Jeezy, and countless other celebrities spoke way worse about Bush.

    No, I didn't. It's true blacks have never cared very much for Bush, but he never gave us much to care about. He let us know under no uncertain terms he did not represent us. So I have no sympathy for him. If the young people did not want to call him their president, so be it–he wasn't. He was Wall Street's president, and wealthy people's president. That's a fact.

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

    Aside from the nasty retaliation, (so unlike Etta) I not only feel as though BO's people should have asked her to sing it, I feel BO should give her a call. CALL IT RESPECT. Beyonce, you were awsome, however, that's not the issue is it? jb

    February 5, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |

    I would think Ms. Etta would take it as a compliment that "her" song was choosen to be sung at a very important day in history. ALL I CAN SAY CRABS IN A BUCKET!!!

    February 5, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  20. NC Paralegal

    Mrs. James is a TRUE diva and she is old enough to say whatever she wants. She is correct, Beyonce is not qualified to sing her song. That was a slap in the face. However, I do not agree with what she said about Pres. Obama, but I support her right to say it.

    February 5, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  21. Charles in Denver

    Etta is one of the great "real deal" old school blues soul singers that blows most chicks out of the water...and most certainly blows beyonce away...with all those dancers and costumes to mask her mediocre voice.Only Mariah might be up in her league. You're right on the money Etta...on everything you said. May as well compare B.B. King to the no talent kanye west...or should I say kanye south....which is where he's headed.

    February 5, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  22. david goldman


    February 5, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  23. danno

    I have never laughed so hard. thank you CNN!!

    February 5, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  24. David de Weerdt

    It looks like Etta is getting on in her years. It happens to everyone. Asking an audience in Canada about "our President"? We have a Prime Minster, and his name isn't Obama, as much as we and others around the world look up to him. I still love Etta James music, including At Last. Beyonce does a fine job of it, too.

    February 5, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  25. Khloe

    It's sad that CNN has resorted to obtaining news articles that should be found on TMZ but once again the media doesn't want to write about the fact that the "honeymoon" is over at the White House and how the new administration has picked tax avoiding scums to run the country? If you want to write about gossip, what happened to the article about the comments Beyonce's so called better half made at the inaguration?? Good Job Etta! Practice your freedom of speech! You are more of a legend than Beyonce will ever be!

    February 5, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
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