When Etta James passed away last week , most obits seemed to focus on her great version of the classic torch song “At Last,” which Beyonce sang for the Obamas at the 2009 Inauguration Ball. (Etta was rightfully pissed that it wasn’t her singing in the new first couple.)
But my favorite Etta song has always been the aching “I’d Rather Go Blind.” I heard her sing it live several times and it has always just moved me tremendously. The version below also features Dr. John and is from B.B. King and Friends live concert/DVD/CD. I’m sure there are better versions out there with Etta and her own band, but I love the nostalgia of this one, because this was B.B.’s road band for decades, and I saw him and them many times. I always loved this guitarist, B.B.’s backup; he played rhythm with the King for 30 years and I wanted to do a feature on him for Guitar World, but alas never did, and he has passed away. You can hear how sweet his laid-back lead playing was; his work is a textbook example of sympathetic accompaniment.
I am pretty sure that this was the only song in this star-studded concert for which B.B. just walked off the stage and let the guest have the stage, which speaks to the respect he had for Etta.
Again, RIP Etta James.