Acrylic and pigment ink on canvas
38 inches wide by 50 inches high
This painting is dedicated to the memory of the great blues and R'n'B singer Etta James, who spent some of her formative teenage years in the Fillmore district of San Francisco. I will never forget seeing her perform at the Great American Music Hall. She radiated sensuality with every movement she made and every word she sang. She had everyone spellbound.
This painting includes many different images of Etta from throughout her long career. You'll see her as a teenager when she joined the Johnny Otis band. It was Johnny Otis who discovered her at age 14 and then arranged for her recording contract with Modern Records. Her first record, "The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)", also known as "Roll with me Henry" and sung with her vocal group The Peaches, is shown in the lower right of the painting. That record went to number one in the R&B charts for four weeks in 1955 when she was 17 years old. In the center left, partially hidden behind his guitar, is Chuck Berry, playing with Etta in 1987. The sheet music of her most famous song "At Last" is included through the background, plus you'll see in the lower left President Obama and the First Lady dancing to "At Last" at his inauguration (though Etta was upset at the fact that Beyonce, not Etta, was chosen to perform the song). The main portrait image is based on a photo of Etta singing early in her career. It was an image that I felt captured her passion and power...
I wish to thank Kim Nalley for prompting me to paint this. Kim asked if I had a potrait of Etta she could display for her tribute to Etta James on July 18 at the Rrazz Room, as we did when she displayed my portrait of Nina Simone for her performances of the Nina Simone Songbook. The tribute was magnificent. Kim was joined on stage by singers Pamela Rose, Denise Perrier and Lady Memphis.
My portrait of Etta on display while Kim sang at the 2012 Fillmore Jazz Festival.
Painting at the Rrazz Room, San Francisco
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