Etta James, the legendary vocalist who is perhaps known for her version of the song "At Last," has died. She was 73. Fresh Air remembers the singer with excerpts from a 1994 interview about her lengthy career.
Bandleader and producer Johnny Otis, who launched and then nurtured the careers of many of R&B's greatest singers, died Tuesday at his home near Los Angeles. He was 90. Fresh Air remembers Otis with excerpts from a 1989 interview.
Rhythm-and-blues singer Ruth Brown died last week at the age of 78 from complications following a heart attack. Brown got her start in the 1940s and influenced an entire generation of singers including Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and Bonnie Raitt. Her hits include "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and "Teardrops From My Eyes." Later, she appeared in John Waters' film Hairspray and in the Broadway hit Black and Blue. She published an autobiography, Miss Rhythm, in 1996. Rhythm." This interview originally aired on Dec. 22, 1997.
Blues singer Rufus Thomas has died at the age of 84. Wel play back several songs and an interview from the 1997 Chicago Blues Festival. Thomas was best known for novelty dance tunes like Walking the Dog and Do the Funky Chicken. In 1953 Thomas recorded Bear Cat, the answer to Big Mama Thornton Hound Dog. It became Sun Recordsfirst hit. In the sixties, Thomas became one of the founding performers for Stax Records.
We remember jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie. He died Monday at the age of 58 from liver cancer. Bowie was a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, founded in 1969. Bowie was known for his flamboyant performing, his sense of humor and theatrics, and his off kilter interpretations of R&B classics. (REBROADCAST from 11/3/89) (THIS INTERVIEW CONTINUES AFTER THE FLOATER).
Baker, one of America's great rhythm-and-blues singers of the 1950's, died earlier this week. She was 67. The Associated Press says the cause was heart complications. Baker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Her hits included "Tweedlee Dee," "Jim Dandy," and "I Cried a Tear." After living in the Philippines during the '70's and '80's, Baker made a comeback in the '90's when she appeared on Broadway in "Black and Blue." (REBROADCAST FROM 3/26/91).