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Intro

In a Nutshell:

The world mourned when jazz/soul/blues/everything legend Etta James died in January 2012, but she did not go down without a fight—literally. It was unsurprising, though, as James’s career has been filled with drama and controversy. “At Last,” her signature song, has often been at the center of such controversy. The song is a classic, and it has been covered by countless singers—both before and after James recorded it in 1960—, but James decided to lay forceful claim to the song in 2009 after a certain sweetheart of American popular music covered it at a very important event. Read on for the rollercoaster tale of Etta James’s tumultuous career and her beef with Beyoncé.

About the Song

ArtistEtta James Musician(s)Etta James (vocals), Chess Records house band (instrumentals)
AlbumAt Last!
Year1961
LabelChess Records
Writer(s)Mack Gordon, Harry Warren
Producer(s)Phil Chess, Leonard Chess
Learn to play: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/e/etta_james/at_last_crd.htm
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
James has sometimes been a bit possessive of her most popular hit, but she really doesn’t need to be. Sure, she hasn’t enjoyed quite the success and recognition that her soul contemporary Aretha Franklin has, but her influence is easily as great—everyone from Janis Joplin to Christina Aguilera to Adele has tried to imitate her perfect capture of heartbreak, joy, and straightforward sexual energy. The history of soul, rock, and blues would not be the same without Etta James.

On the Charts

“At Last” hit #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. It was #1 on the Hot R&B Chart.

Etta James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. She has also been honored in the Blues Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.

James’ version of “At Last” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Rolling Stone named Etta James #22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of all Time.
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