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Etta James from Jenifer Westwood's weekly soul! In her words about Etta James!
Its obvious I love a woman with grit. I think, honestly, it’s the highest form of femininity. Most of the time that grit is developed or revealed through circumstance. A woman that can walk through her own personal fire, do what she has to do, hold her head high in spite of her circumstances, and gracefully find herself on her feet once again…and again.
THAT is a lady, to me THAT is beauty. It’s what I look for in a role model. “Grit: firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”, according to Webster’s.
I think there is no mistake that the female singers I admire have had their fair share of grit development opportunities. You can hear it in their voice. Maybe the songs have to mean something to them. You won’t hear them singing about their bottle of Veuve Clicquot unless they are beating some creeper over the head with it or about to spend a night of REAL unbridled passion with their lover. And even then…it was really probably a bottle of cheap whiskey.
Etta James is an iconic woman of grit with a voice that is often imitated, never duplicated. She was born to a 14 year old mother-prostitute that was never around much, and sent to live with foster parents (where she began singing gospel) until she got a bit older. She received negligent parenting at best while living with her birth mother who was critical of her singing style. Early drinking, smoking and abuse surely set the stage for a struggle with substances on and off through the years.
Her first single, “Roll with me Henry” was considered racy and had to be re-titled. She spanned genres from R&B, Rock, Pop, and Jazz. Most people think of “At Last” when they think of Etta James...one of the greatest love songs of all time. I love her sweet rasp in songs like “Tell Mama” and “Security”.
When I hear her sing, I feel like she’s preaching. She’s telling you something you need to know. You are commanded to listen. How often do you hear something like that? He influence on so many artists is undeniable. Its almost become cliché to the point of sacrilege to toss her name up as influential so casually. She is a singer to be revered for her talent, versatility and grit that enabled her to remain relevant and working in a fickle world when many artists would have retired their dressing room star for a chance at reality show fame.
She released her final work in 2011 not long before her death from leukemia. That is a woman dedicated to her life’s calling. I’m simultaneously inspired and humbled just at the thought of that.
Etta James was the real deal. And I end with a great quote by her that casts light on her character, life, and so much art:
“A lot of people think the blues is depressing,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1992, “but that’s not the blues I’m singing. When I’m singing blues, I’m singing life. People that can’t stand to listen to the blues must be phonies.” and for that we thank Jenifer who's words and depth about her convictions and how she feels about music have inspired me as a person and a musician!
Please stop by her web site http://www.jenniferwestwood.com Support this hard working, soulful artist! Please see her perform live if you get a chance, buy her albums and tune in next week as Jenifer let's us into her soul and reveals a little more about her life, and what inspires her as a hardworking woman and musician!
Jenifer's traveled through out the world pursing music but found her roots and soul in the Midwest living in Motown the music motor city! Following in the footsteps before her we expect big things to come from Jenifer Westwood in the near future! Check out Jenifer Westwood singing LIve in front of a packed house!
Clear to see Etta James voice her was pure soul and divinity sending goose bumps to anyone who listened to her sing! We feel the same about Jenifer's will, soul and powerful voice which instantly caught our attention! We knew from just a few seconds of her singing where she must be! It's an honor to know Jenifer as she makes her push towards making her dreams a reality and we fully expect them all to come true!
P.S Not only are you an amazing singer songwriter but you sure can write! Outstanding article! Thanks from the stage for your gift with words!