Friday, January 20, 2012

...and life is like a song

Etta James has died.
It's always sad when someone who is considered a "standard" dies because you feel like part of the history and knowledge of the craft has been lost. But while people are eulogizing the singer for her voice, I can't help but be honest with what my first thought was.
"I can't stand Beyonce. She had no business up there singing my song that I've been singing forever."
That's what Etta said after Beyonce was asked by then-President-Elect Obama to sing "At Last" at his and Michelle's first dance at the Inaugural Ball. I've never forgot that and I've actually come to associate that quote with my entire perception of Etta. She later said she was only kidding - but we can all agree that she wasn't.
She was bitter that she'd been passed over by a new star. And that's the last real memory the public has of her. She got sick and it was over. No matter the legacy, the last real burst of press she had was bitterness.
I don't want to be like this. I realize that no one knows when their time on Earth will be over, but whenever that happens, I don't want the last impression I leave here to be one of bitterness, hatred or even irritation. I want what I do to matter and to continue to matter after I'm outta here.
Sure, Etta's music will live on, the people at the Grammys in a couple weeks will talk about how amazing she was and how she's a legend, but what does that say about her as a person? As I see it, her life ended on a bitter note. Where some artists are passionate about passing the torch and with that, mentoring new artists, she seemed to live only on her own fame.
I've said it a thousand times. Life is nothing but the people who are in it. No matter what, I want to live a life of purpose, fulfillment and jammed full of people who matter. I hope that Etta had that, despite what we saw in the press. To me, it doesn't matter how great a singer or performer you were. What matters is the life you led.

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