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Friday 20 January 2012

Etta James

She died and I'm not going to claim I was a big fan, but wow, her voice was something. How often does a voice like that come along? And even when a talent like that does comes along, how many have the discipline and self-belief to follow through?

Michael Jackson's impact was obvious, it reverberated throughout the entire world. Yet someone like Etta James gets into you differently. She turned up on compilation discs and your old lover's mix tapes. You found her in your parent's Vinyl collections. 'At Last' described love coming along after waiting forever, in a way so few other songs ever did.

And that's her legacy. The voice, the songs; the famous ones and whatever our personal favourites might be.

Etta probably hasn't crossed my mind at all in recent years, but what a beautiful thing that, hours after her death, I can be walking through the streets of London, profoundly moved by what I'm hearing through my headphones.

I've not found much meaning to life. It all seems so random -- we can only hold on to loved ones and our memories. But It's made all the more sweeter by these angels who turn up out of nowhere and leave a film or a song that burns into our consciousness and stays there for the rest of our lives.

Don't you think it's magic when that happens? Etta James is, we are told, gone. And sure, if you believe in the religious stuff, she might be floating on a cloud some place, catching up with Elvis. Instead of all that, we can see, she is more alive than ever before - all across the world - as people reach for old records, hunt her down on YouTube and stream her rarities on Spotify.

I can't get enough of this voice. It's only when they die that we truly focus on who they were -- just like in ordinary life. Something sad about that but, in the end, it gives some meaning to all of this insanity.

Her death is sad, but, to briefly evaluate; the fact she lived at all has made my life better.

And that's why the artists are important. That's why you'll pick up a pen or a guitar or a paintbrush tonight and tomorrow and the day after that. The only thing that lasts is what we leave. 

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