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by Len Hart

A needless controversy. Both Beyonce Knowles and Etta James have recorded great versions of --At Last --a standard since the 1940s.

If anyone owns that song it is Glenn Miller for whom it was written and for whom it was, perhaps, the greatest hit.

Glenn was a 'class act'! There are no indications that he was ever upset, vindictive or, in any way, resentful of the many artists --some great --who 'dared' to record the song that his band made famous before Glenn himself would die entertaining U.S. troops in Europe during World War II.
If you love a good celebrity catfight -– and really, who among us doesn’t? -– then congratulations, friend! This is shaping up to be a very good week for you. First came the utterly lopsided Faye Dunaway/Hilary Duff tiff, which centered on that bizarro Bonnie & Clyde update and brought both of those ladies back into the headlines after a long spell of irrelevance.

Now comes word that 71-year-old soul legend Etta James has turned on none other than Beyonce Knowles, who so memorably portrayed her in 2008's overlooked film Cadillac Records.

I guess all of those platitudes that Etta showered on Beyonce when the movie came out were uttered through gritted teeth, ’cause at a Seattle concert, Etta complained about not being asked to sing her signature song, "At Last," during President Barack Obama’s first dance with his wife, Michelle, at his Inauguration Balls.

"You guys know your president, right?" she asked the crowd. "The one with the big ears?"

--"Etta James vs. Beyonce: 'At Last,' the catfight you knew was coming" by Nicholas FonsecaEtta James discussing Beyonce and President Obama at a Jan. 28, 2009 concert in Seattle:

'At Last' dates to 1941 --before Etta, before Beyonce. In that sense, it belongs to neither though both versions are excellent. 'At Last' was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for 'Orchestra Wives' starring George Montgomery and Ann Rutherford. The first filmed performance is credited to Glenn Miller and his orchestra with vocals by Ray Eberle and Pat Friday. Unreleased recordings were included in the film Sun Valley Serenade. Miller's version reached number 9 on the Billboard pop charts in 1942 and stayed there for some 9 weeks. As a result, the song became a standard!

Nat King Cole recorded it in 1957 for his album: Love Is the Thing. It was not until 1960 that Etta James 'covered' it and was, as a result, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999; it became her signature, the third in a string of hits for her Chess Records debut album --At Last!. By April 1961, it had become her second number 2 R&B hit, crossing over to pop, reaching number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100. No one can take anything away from her interpretation of it.

At last --'At Last' has been covered by many artists --Brenda Lee, Doris Day, Stevie Wonder, Randy Crawford, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, Lou Rawls, Phoebe Snow, Jimmy Scott, Diane Schuur, B. B. King, Stevie Nicks, Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Jason Mraz, Céline Dion, The Temptations, Christina Aguilera, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Bolton, Martina McBride, Kenny G, Arturo Sandoval, Baby Washington, Ben E. King, Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin and --most recently --Beyoncé Knowles.

My two cents: GIVE IT A REST! Enjoy the music.

Beyonce Knowles and Etta James: At Last

Len Hart
Houston, Texas
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Moderator's Note: Here are some of my favorite recordings of At Last, including those by Glenn Miller, Etta James and Beyonce Knowles. And, by the way, At Last has been my favorite song since the 1940's! -- George Spink.

At Last - Glenn Miller with Ray Eberle (1942) from Glenn Miller: A Legendary Performer Album

At Last - Glenn Miller with Pat Friday and Ray Eberle (1942) from "Orchestra Wives"

At Last - Ray Eberle and His Orchestra from "Ray Eberle Plays Glenn Miller Favorites" (1957)

At Last - Etta James (1960) on Chess Records, which didn't become a hit for her until it was featured in the 1988 film "Rain Man" starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Her recording became an anthem for a whole new generation.

"At Last" - Beyoncé from "Cadillac Records" (2008) in which she portrayed Etta James.