At Last

Album: At Last! (1961)
Charted: 39 47
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  • The songwriting team of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote this in 1941 for the film musical Sun Valley Serenade. The following year it was rearranged and re-recorded and used in the film Orchestra Wives. It was performed in both movies by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra with vocals by Ray Eberle, and the song became a major big band hit in October 1942. Gordon and Warren composed other hits together, including "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "Serenade in Blue," "You'll Never Know," and "There Will Never Be Another You." Many of their songs were for musical motion pictures, including at least one written for Shirley Temple. Before teaming up, they were successful composers on their own and wrote numerous other songs with other partners. Gordon wrote the lyrics and Warren wrote the music.
  • Etta James recorded this in 1961 shortly after signing with Chess records. Leonard Chess thought James was a classy ballad singer and saw pop crossover potential in her; it was his decision to back her with violin orchestrations for the song. Her version went to #2 on the R&B charts.
  • With lyrics about finding that one true love and a classical feel, this is a very popular wedding song.
  • Ten years after the original, Ray Anthony & his Orchestra returned this to the charts in a version with vocals by Tommy Mercer.
  • Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles. She started singing at only five years old in her Baptist church choir. Known for her amazing voice, many people considered James the "Queen Of Soul" before Aretha Franklin claimed the title. Her stage name came from switching around the letters in her first name, Jamesetta.
  • James battled various drug addictions through the years, but it rarely affected her music. She was in the midst of her addictions and other personal and professional problems when "At Last" was recorded.

    It is her most enduring song, but is not typical of her work. Many of her songs have more of a blues feel and often contain darker lyrics that reflect the challenges she faced. James never gained massive popularity, but she eventually beat her two-decade drug problems and has been cited as an influence by many younger singers, including Christina Aguilera. She was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and continued to tour and record into the '00s. She died on January 20, 2012.
  • Some of the artists who have recorded this song include Cyndi Lauper, Celine Dion, Gladys Knight and Joan Osborne. Christina Aguilera and Jason Mraz have both covered it in concert.
  • This is featured on the soundtrack of the 1998 movie Pleasantville, starring Tobey Maguire. That same year, it was also used in the movie Rain Man in a scene where Tom Cruise teaches Dustin Hoffman how to dance.
  • Beyoncé covered this for the soundtrack of the 2008 movie Cadillac Records, which told the story of Chess Records. The Destiny's Child singer portrayed Etta James in the film.

    Beyoncé sang "At Last" at Barack Obama's first dance with his wife, Michelle, during the Neighborhood Ball on the night of his inauguration as American president. Thanks to interest aroused by her rendition, Beyoncé's version entered the American Hot 100 at #67. All was well until Etta James spoke out at a concert in Seattle. Apparently miffed at not being asked to perform her signature song for Obama, James said: "I can't stand Beyoncé. On a big old president day, don't be up there singing my song that I've been singing forever."
  • Fifty years after the song's release, it entered the UK top 40 for the first time following the announcement of the passing of Etta James. The song previously reached #69 in 2010 after being covered on The X Factor.
  • This was one of five songs that Simon Cowell said he never wants to hear again at an audition. "I'm allergic to it," he said during a conference call to promote the US première of X Factor.

    He's not alone in this sentiment: American Idol host Ryan Seacrest said that hearing this in one audition after another ruined the song for him.
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Comments: 16

  • Sd Davis from SacramentoWhat "rights" does Etta have to this song. She is not the writer nor is she the "first" person to record it. The President has a right to chose whom "he" wants to sing the song he selected to dance with the women he loves. Etta go someplace and sit down and enjoy life. Stop being "Bitter Etta J".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 10th 1961, "At Last" by Etta James entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #47 and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #2 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1955 and 1978 she had twenty seven hits on the R&B Singles chart; with thirteen making the *Top 10 and one peaking at #1 ("The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)" for 4 weeks in 1955)...
    R.I.P. Ms. James, Jamesetta Hawkins, (1938 - 2012)...
    * Four of her 13 records that made the Top 10 peaked at #6.
  • Joyce from Houston, TxEtta James in response to Beyonce' singing her song for the Prez. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adLJRKQWAO8
  • Budoshi from Sandnessjøen, NorwayEva Cassidy did a wonderful cover of this great song..:D A should hear..
  • Byamada from New York, NyDoes anybody know of a French Language version of this Etta James Classic?
  • Thomnesia from Cape Town, South AfricaI honestly love the song "at last". And my honest opinion, Beyonce Knowles is doing a great job on this song!!! I love listeing to this song, before i go to sleep i listen to this song, when i'm in the bath, in my car.... It's beautiful and relxing and it makes me fall more and more inlove with my partner. and this song is so true!! But all over Etta James is still the best!!!
  • Pala from Madison, Wi, WiI agree with Etta James in that "I can't stand Beyonce," either. Also I concur with Carlos that it wasn't cool that Beyonce did the song live at the Obama inaugural ball. It truly is a shame that Beyonce covered this wonderful, meaningful, classic love-at-first-sight song, because she doesn't have what it takes to do that song, Beyonce's version is weak, lifeless, vapid and completely without power or emotion. Whenever I hear her version on the radio (they play it on Smooth Jazz, unfortunately), I have to shut it off because I can't bear to hear her murder that beautiful song. As far as the writer who is enamored of Beyonce's singing, I've only heard her display some vocal ability on one song in her entire career; otherwise it is all 'whining' as the same writer said characterizes "most young women singers these days." One final comment: I've heard a couple other versions of "At Last" on Lounge radio where they play lounge standards, and there just isn't any comparison of any other version that can stand up to Etta James' landmark recording of it. Irregardless of her rude attitude or tacky comments or past problems, James completely nails that song to the wall like no one else ever could.
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NyBeyonce, unlike the vast majority of young women who proport to be singers these days, actually can sing and she does it quite well. Most young women singers these days either whine or moan and they think that expresses emotion, and the mindless teeny-boppers gobble up this garbage and make these no talents into stars! Etta James' tirade showed a distinct lack of class, which I found both surprising and sad. Beyonce has shown herself to be a true talent. She's not Etta, but that's okay. No one but Etta is. But that does not mean that no one else ever can try to sing this song!
  • Carlos from Tampa, FlIt is a total shame that Beyonce sang this instead of Etta at the inauguration. Etta is a true legend with tons of class and "At Last" is always associated with her. Beyonce is a media hound with a weak voice who uses things like this for publicity. Why anyone can stand listening to her for more than 5 seconds is beyond me. I would be upset if I were Etta too.
  • Sarah from Las Vegas, NvPersonally, I just love her voice and the range on this song. It is truly one of those songs you can sing with all of your heart and soul in the car, and you don't care who sees you because it feels good. She could have been singing about cleaning toilets, and because of her voice I still would have loved it.
  • Julia from Knoxville, TnMy husband and I love to dance to this. We even did it one time when it was playing at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

    Chanddrikka, I got married exactly a month before you. But we did not use this song as our wedding song.
  • Kristin from Yaphank, NyThis is the best love song ever. It's so heavenly, with that whole concept about love at first sight, and that wonderful feeling one gets when they realize that they're in love.
  • Tanya from Los Angeles, Cayeah, I must admit, I love it so much that I used a snippet of it in my wedding!
  • John from Los Angeles, CaAt a recent performance at the Hollywood Bowl, Etta James introduced this song as "that song you've heard at every lame-ass wedding you've ever been to."
  • Jonnie from St. Louis, MoThe uniqueness of this song, the arrangement and Etta James' interpetation of it truly places it in the "classic" category. But James was SO versatile! If you want to really hear her "rock out" sometime, listen to her sing "Tell Mama"! And you will become a true believer.
  • Chanddrikka from Baton Rouge, LaI was married on April 10th of this year and this is the song that I used. Everybody love it.

    C. Fisher
    Baton Rouge, LA
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