Friday, January 20, 2012

RIP Etta James

I was just doing a quick scan of the news and saw that Etta James has died. If you aren't familiar with her, Etta James was a soul singer best known for her song, At Last, among the best torch songs ever recorded. She had a tough life and as she sings you can hear her experience in every note.

I've loved her music since I was a teenager, swooning along with her as I've loved and had my heart broken.

My most cherished memory of her music is this. For many years, my sweetheart, Kevin, and I took our friends and mentors Brother Blue and Ruth Hill out for Valentine's Day. Sometimes we'd go out for dinner, sometimes we'd go hear music, sometimes they'd come over.

One year, maybe 3 or 4 years before Brother Blue died, we went out to a nice restaurant that was having a Valentine's Day jazz dinner. Brother Blue loved jazz. We ate and listened to music together, watched people dance and had a lovely time. I danced with Brother Blue - or more accurately, Brother Blue danced around me, he was an amazing dancer - and Kevin danced with Ruth.

When the singer started the first few lush notes of At Last the dance floor was swarmed, every couple stood up to dance. Kevin and I danced. Ruth and Brother Blue sat at the table, held hands and watched us.

When we sat down, Brother Blue said, "That was it, the most magical moment of the evening, watching you two dance together." From that day on, whenever I heard Etta James sing At Last I would remember dancing with the love of my life while two of the dearest people in my life, and a model for love and endurance, smiled at us.

Over the next several years, until he died, Brother Blue would refer back to that night as the most magical of nights. Now, those of you who know Brother Blue know that he had many most magical nights, but I don't think that any one of them was any less most magical than any other. This one happened to be ours.

Over the next few days, I know I will hear At Last everywhere.And each time I hear it, I will think of my friend, Brother Blue. I will miss him just a little bit more. I will think of my friend, Ruth. I will love her just a little bit more. And I will think of my partner in life and in dance, Kevin. I will be just a little bit more grateful.

Thank you, Etta James, for giving us such soulful, impassioned music. You touched so many lives, including mine. May you rest in peace.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Beautiful memory and remembrance. Thank you for sharing, Laura.


  2. You made me see it all. Thank you for giving this picture to the world. Florence

  3. Replies
    1. It was Blue, suggesting you find a story about music and tell it....


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