Blues To The Bone: The Life Of Etta James [6 Music]

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0120110125

012011012520150113 (6M)

Candi Staton celebrates the life of Etta James, who died in 2012.

With a career that spanned nearly six decades, James has been cited as an influence by artists such as Christina Aguilera, Melissa Etheridge and the late Janis Joplin. Film director Martin Scorsese said of her: "I first heard Etta James' voice in the early 60s, coming out of the radio. That soaring voice... it was like taking a ride up to the stars."

But as we'll hear from these three programmes, James' private life was troubled by drug addiction and legal problems. It wasn't until 1988, after treatment at the Betty Ford Clinic, that she finally beat her addiction and released Seven Year Itch, an album showcasing a new, more raunchy style of singing.

But in 1994 the music industry awarded James her first Grammy, that of Best Jazz Vocal Performance for her collection of Billie Holliday songs. And after picking up the Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2003, two more followed (Best Contemporary Blues Album for 2003's Let's Roll and Best Traditional Blues Album for 2004's Blues To The Bone). This series first broadcast on Radio 2 in 2006.

012011012520150113 (6M)

Candi Staton presents the story of the great RnB singer.

0220110126

022011012620150114 (6M)

Candi Staton presents the story of the great RnB singer.

0320110127

032011012720150115 (6M)

Candi Staton celebrates the life of Etta James, who died in 2012. First broadcast in 2006.

The final programme picks up Etta James' career in 1975, when she was experimenting with more unusual material like Randy Newman's Let's Burn Down The Cornfields and You Can Leave Your Hat On. Her road manager Phil Kaufman, her guitarist Brian Ray, and A&R man Tony Rounce describe her successful fight against drug addiction. Etta's song W.O.M.A.N. co-written with her mother Dorothy, was reworked with a funk groove and Brian Ray remembers his contribution to this.

Singer, Sugar Pie Desanto talks about Etta's wicked sense of humour and tour manager Phil Kaufman relates a few humorous anecdotes about the chaos involved in being on the road with Etta. In 1988, Etta signed to Island Records and Tony Rounce talks about this time, and how she collaborated with singer Steve Winwood on the track Give It Up.

One of Etta's biggest influences was Billie Holiday, who warned Etta to stay clear of drugs when they met. Her 1995 Billie Holiday tribute album, Mystery Lady, secured Etta her first Grammy and she picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2003 Grammy Awards.

032011012720150115 (6M)

Candi Staton presents the story of the great RnB singer.