Sunday, January 22, 2012

Goodbye Etta James / Gustav Leonhardt

If anyone deserved be called a "singular sensation," it was Etta James. Between 1960 and 1963, she had 10 records on the R&B charts, including "Something's Got a Hold on Me." When she was burnt out and in rehab, the Rolling Stones invited her to tour with them. She had the distinction of having her most famous song, "At Last" sung at the inauguration of the first African American president. In tribute to her passing, NPR had five of its djs choose a signature James song, including "At Last," "I'd Rather Go Blind," "Tell Mama," "Something's Got a Hold on Me," and the funky rarity "In the Basement."
A master in another genre, Dutch harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt died at his home in Amsterdam last week at the age of 83. He was a pioneer of the Baroque music revival and influenced Martin Pearlman to found Boston Baroque in 1973— the first period instrument orchestra created in the United States. My music-mad friend (and avid Daedalus customer) Howard wrote the following: "He was a fabulous musician. I remember hearing some of his Bach recordings early on and being captivated by his ability to be deeply expressive on the harpsichord. Listening again recently, I felt the same. His instrument never rattled like someone shaking a box full of forks and spoons." Howard recommended this performance, so I'm passing it on to you.

In the above excerpt from the 1968 German docudrama Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, you can see Leonhardt as the composer at the harpsichord—mostly from behind, but those fleet fingers are something else … and is that music ever dense!
For some super baroque music, Vivaldi's Cello, with Yo-Yo Ma on cello and Ton Koopman on harpsichord, is a must listen, as is the Boston Baroque's recording of The Four Seasons and two concertos by Geminiani.


  1. Etta James will be truly missed! She is my all time favorite artist. Her songs will live on, but I have never listened to Gustav, I will have to take in a peek in Daedalus's music collection :)

  2. Another song bird has left us. Thankful for the great music she left behind for generations to enjoy.

  3. Wow, how sad for you ... I felt that way when Ella died. Tell us what your favorite songs were??