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YouTube Gold: Etta James Takes One Away From The Rolling Stones

A superb cover of a song by a cover band?

Etta Performing In The UK
Etta James in the UK

We’re not sure if it came up because of the interest in Peter Jackson’s terrific documentary about the Beatles or maybe it was in it, but Paul McCartney said this about The Rolling Stones:

”I’m not sure I should say it, but they’re a blues cover band, that’s sort of what the Stones are. I think our net was cast a bit wider than theirs.”

Mick Jagger had some mildly snarky comments about concerts but also called McCartney “lovely” and meant it.

McCartney wasn't wrong though. The Stones really admired musicians like Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon and for a long time were basically a cover band. Their first album featured songs by Buddy Holly, Dixon, Chuck Berry and other familiar names.

That would change eventually as they gained confidence in their own songwriting and when Mick Jones joined from 1969-74, they hit a completely different level with songs like Wild Horses and Tumbling Dice that redefined them as much more than a blues cover band (they had done that once already but Taylor pulled them in a much more interesting direction).

But there was truth in McCartney’s critique and it was underscored in a way by Etta James when she covered Miss You, a Stones hit from 1978.

Essentially it was a disco song, part of Mick Jagger’s constant urge to be on the cutting edge of musical fashion.

Not with Etta James. She stripped it down to its most basic elements and made it into the kind of blues song that the Stones set out to emulate. They never came close to what she does here although Keith Richards, in his later years, came close with his cover of Cocaine Blues. But he earned that accomplishment through extraordinary hard living. You have to think the bluesmen he admired coming up would have been amazed that he not only lived through extraordinary substance abuse but was still coherent enough to do this at a relatively elderly age.