Song 235: Etta James, “My Heart Cries” (1960)


I’m including that album cover up there as a kind of cheat: “My Heart Cries” didn’t originally appear on At Last!—it was included as a bonus track on the record’s 1999 re-release. But damn, that album cover. I couldn’t resist.

“My Heart Cries” was released as the B-side of a single that featured “If I Can’t Have You” as the main attraction. To me, though, the song is not only worthy of an A-side, but of a place on James’s timeless LP. I think it’s gorgeous. James’s harmonies with Harvey Fuqua (founder of The Moonglows and a seminal figure in the birth of Motown Records) are imperfect, but that adds a kind of charm. The song’s rough edges make the duet sound like the work of people trying their damndest to make something work, either as a work of art or a relationship.

The musicianship on display here is equally stunning. The guitars are warm and thick, the saxophones are fat and round, and the piano is light and graceful. It all combines to make a big, comforting soup, one that surely deserves a better role than also-ran.


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