City Slang: Etta James, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, and the Detroit connection

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City Slang was sad to learn about the passing of Etta James last week. A lot was written about the woman with the beautiful voice, and we don’t have much to add besides the fact that, though not a Detroiter, she sounded authentic, honest, ragged and earthy enough to have been one.

Something we did learn from Slate while reading through the pages and pages of deserved praise is that one of her greatest songs, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, was co-written by honorary Detroiter Ellington “Fugi” Jordan.

Fugi had yet to move to Detroit at the time, and he was apparently in prison for robbery when he started the song, then called “I’d Rather Be a Blind Man”. He’s an LA native, and he’s back in Fresno now. But he had a big impact while living in the D, and is perhaps best known for collaborating with Black Merda, widely considered to be the first all black rock band.

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Fugi might be back in Cali, but he’ll always be a Detroiter in our eyes. Compare his recording with James’ version, and you will be able to hear the song’s evolution.

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