McCusker and Etta James

Eucharistein is the Greek word “to give thanks.”

That is what Catholic Christians do whenever they gather on Sundays.

We break the bread and tell the Story—and give thanks for the omnipresence of God in our lives.

At one point in the mass we have prayers of the Faithful, the tribe.

The highest form of prayer is gratitude.

This past Sunday my prayer was for the life of Etta James who died on January 27.Not only for her but for all the “soul” singers whose gift it is to plumb the mysteries of life—God, death,love, sex.Every generation of artists offers its interpretation.In my prayer I mentioned Dylan and Leonard Cohen as well.

It was my high school friend Johnny McCusker who chided me for not “grieving “ with him over Etta’s passing to the higher choir.

John was right.

When we were fifteen, Etta was seventeen and she began her long career singing, Dance with Me, Henry (The Wallflower). Of course the majority of royalties went to a former big band singer Georgia Gibbs who “covered” Etta’s version.It was pale in comparison as were most of the covers of the original history black artists.

But Etta survived.

On the drive to mass, my CD blared out one of her most soulful tunes, “Id Rather Go Blind.” The song still sends chills up my spine.

Something told me it was over
When I saw you and her talkin’
Something deep down in my soul said, ‘Cry, girl’
When I saw you and that girl walkin’ around

Whoo, I would rather, I would rather go blind, boy
Then to see you walk away from me, child, no

Man,the feeling that woman puts into this cry of separation,abandonment is real, rare and haunting.

My prayer of gratitude was real.Thank for the arts and the artists who light op our moral landscapes.

Thanks to Etta James.(1938-2012) and as another soufull writers(Irving Berlin and Beda Loehner) said in 1927, The song has ended but the memory lingers on.


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