|Single by Glenn Miller 01 and his Orchestra|
|A-side||"(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo"|
"At Last" is a song written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the musical film Sun Valley Serenade (1941). Glenn Miller and his orchestra recorded the tune several times, with a 1942 version reaching number two on the US Billboard pop music chart.
In 1960, rhythm and blues singer Etta James recorded an arrangement by Riley Hampton that improvised on Warren's original melody; this rendition would go on to become known as the song's standard version over subsequent decades. Etta James' rendition was the title track on her debut album At Last! (1960) and was eventually inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Most recently, Celine Dion and Beyoncé have also had chart successes with the song.
Glenn Miller original renditions
Prior to release of Sun Valley Serenade, "At Last" was performed in the film by Glenn Miller and his orchestra, with vocals by John Payne and Lynn Bari, dubbed by Pat Friday. Studio head Darryl Zanuck reportedly said: "There are too many big ones in this. Let's save one for the next." The "At Last" vocal by Payne and Bari was thus deleted from the film, although instrumental versions remained, including in the Black Ice Ballet finale. The vocal version was included in the movie Orchestra Wives (1942), which also featured the Glenn Miller orchestra. It was sung by Ray Eberle and Bari, again dubbed by Friday.
Unreleased recordings of the song were made in 1941 by Glenn Miller. A new version was recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in Hollywood on May 20, 1942, and released by RCA Victor Records as a 78 single, backed with the A-side "(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo". The song entered the US Billboard pop music chart (called "Songs with the Most Radio Plugs" at the time) on August 1, 1942 at number 17 and peaked at number two on August 29, 1942. It spent a total of 17 weeks on the chart and later became a musical standard.
The personnel on the 1942 studio recording of "At Last": Ray Eberle (vocals), Billy May, John Best, Steve Lipkins, R.D. McMickle (trumpet), Glenn Miller, Jim Priddy, Paul Tanner, Frank D'Annolfo (trombone), Lloyd "Skip" Martin, Wilbur Schwartz (clarinet, alto saxophone), Tex Beneke, Al Klink (tenor saxophone), Ernie Caceres (baritone saxophone), Chummy MacGregor (piano), Bobby Hackett (guitar), Edward "Doc" Goldberg (string bass), and Maurice Purtill (drums). The arrangement was by Jerry Gray and Bill Finegan.
When RCA Victor issued two 10-inch LP soundtracks to Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives in 1954, to coincide with the theatrical reissue of the two films, the outtake version of "At Last" from "Sun Valley Serenade" was included, heard for the first time, but the version in Orchestra Wives was not. This latter rendition was eventually on LP in 1958, in the 20th-Fox double-disc (TCF-100-2) Glenn Miller Compilation of His Original Film Soundtracks.
The 1942 RCA Victor studio recording of "At Last" by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra featuring Ray Eberle on vocals was released as a U.S. Army V-Disc or Victory Disc by the U.S. War Department during World War II in October 1943 as No. 12A. V-Discs were sent to American soldiers and military personnel overseas.
"At Last" has been recorded by many other artists since its original 1940s renditions. Former Glenn Miller Orchestra trumpeter Ray Anthony had the highest charting recording of the song in the U.S. on the pop charts in 1952, peaking at number two on the Billboard pop singles chart and number 20 on the Cashbox chart.
In 2012, Christina Aguilera was invited by Etta James' family to sing "At Last" at James' funeral. At the funeral, Aguilera stated that James was her idol and inspiration, and that in honor of James, she performs "At Last" at every concert.
Etta James version
|Single by Etta James|
|from the album At Last!|
|B-side||"I Just Want to Make Love to You"|
|Released||November 15, 1960 (1960-11-15)|
|Etta James singles chronology|
"At Last" became R&B singer Etta James's signature song and was the third in a string of successful songs from her Argo Records debut album (Argo LP 4003, mono; LPS 4003, stereo) At Last!. In April 1961, it became her second number two R&B hit single (Argo 5380) and crossed over to pop radio, reaching number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite its modest pop chart standing, the song is well-known and is still played regularly on oldies radio stations and has become a musical standard. James' recording also reached the top 40 in Cashbox (#30) and Music Vendor.
James' version, with its passionate vocal and sweeping orchestration, is often used for weddings and wedding receptions.
After one of James' other singles, "Something's Got a Hold on Me", was sampled in two hit singles in 2011 (Avicii's "Levels" and Flo Rida's "Good Feeling"), "At Last" charted in the United Kingdom for the first time at number 69. Following James' death in 2012, the song again rose in the charts and even reached the top 40.
|US Billboard Hot 100||47|
|US Cash Box Top 100||30|
|US Billboard Hot R&B Sides||2|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||69|
|UK Singles (OCC)||39|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||600,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000*|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Celine Dion version
|Single by Celine Dion|
|from the album A New Day Has Come|
|Released||December 9, 2002 (2002-12-09)|
|Celine Dion singles chronology|
"At Last" was covered by Celine Dion and included on her sixth English-language album A New Day Has Come (2002). Her version was produced by Humberto Gatica and Guy Roche and was released as a promotional single in the US on December 9, 2002. There was no associated music video, and it was the last single released from Dion's album.
Commenting on the song, Dion revealed: "I can see beginning my show and looking into everyone's eyes and singing this song. This is my hello."
Dion's "At Last" peaked at number 16 on the Adult Contemporary chart. A live version of this song was included on the A New Day... Live in Las Vegas album in 2004, as Dion performed it for four years during her A New Day... show in Las Vegas. She has also performed the song on several television programs.
Dion's rendition was critically acclaimed. Frédéric Garat of RFI wrote that the song is "a lovely exercise which reveals the layer of blues hiding underneath the slightly prim and proper petticoats of the 'international star'." Barnes & Noble's Editorial review commented, "Her solid rendition of Etta James's 'At Last' should satisfy her lovelorn fans." Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called it "a soulful rendition." Chuck Taylor of Billboard said that this "standard" serves her grown-up fans. However, Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone commented that "she doesn't have the pipes for material defined by Etta James." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly agreed, calling it a "pallid cover."
|US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)||16|
|Single by Beyoncé|
|from the album Cadillac Records: Music from the Motion Picture|
|Released||November 3, 2008 (2008-11-03)|
|Beyoncé singles chronology|
"At Last" was also covered by Beyoncé and included on the soundtrack album of the film Cadillac Records (2008). It was released on the soundtrack album on December 2, 2008 through Columbia Records. In the film, Beyoncé actually portrays Etta James. Beyoncé won critical acclaim for her role Cadillac Records and has performed "At Last" several times since the movie was released, including in front of James herself. Beyonce told MTV News: "[Etta James is] one of my heroes, and I always loved her voice, but now knowing what she's been through, she's one of my heroes. I'm not sure if she thought [I would be good] as her. I'm very, very nervous ... I actually spoke with her and she told me, 'I loved you from the first time you sung.'" Beyoncé also later told Billboard: "I realized that Etta James was so unapologetic, bold and strong that playing her was a big risk for me. It gave me the confidence and the push to challenge myself a little more with my music."
John Kehe of The Christian Science Monitor wrote: "No one can channel Etta – she's a singular talent – but Beyoncé does it her own way and conjurs enough emotion and grit to make it work in the context of the movie." A. O. Scott of The New York Times added that Beyoncé's interpretation of "At Last" was "downright revelatory" and described Beyoncé as "a real soul diva of the old school." A writer of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "when she belts out 'At Last,' it all makes sense."
By contrast, Thom Jurek of Allmusic wrote that on "At Last",
Beyoncé possesses little of the legendary singer's power or edgy finesse. She's entirely too polished and restrained. Her phrasing doesn't come close in terms of inventiveness or inspiration, and her emotional conviction is lacking, to say the least.
This was somewhat echoed by Robert Fontenot of About.com who thought that Beyoncé
sings Etta like a diva – technically proficient, but overemoted and lacking every bit of Etta's sly subtext and hard-won earthiness. Beyoncé knows how to sing the blues, in other words; she just doesn't know how to have them.
Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly also gave a mixed review for the song, writing,
The only major drawback to her performance is that she lacks the pained vocal chops to convincingly pull off James's songs or make them her own... Each time she covers classics like "At Last" and "Trust in Me," you hear Beyoncé, not Etta.
Beyoncé's version of "At Last" won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards. On The Village Voice's 2008 year-end Pazz & Jop singles list, Beyoncé's version of "At Last" was ranked at number 443.
"At Last" was performed live for the first time by Beyoncé during the 2008 Fashion Rocks on September 5, 2008 as a tribute to James. The live version of the song at the show was later released in 2008. Beyoncé performed the song live at Barack Obama's first dance with his wife Michelle during the Neighborhood Ball on the night of his inauguration as President of the United States. She told Entertainment Tonight: "To sing 'At Last' while they have their first dance is a dream come true. I could not be more honored and excited that they have asked me to be part of this moment in history." Jen Chaney of The Washington Post wrote,
she sang it, tearfully, another high-profile time. On that night, the song's expression of a romantic promise fulfilled clearly spoke to the hope that political promises would be fulfilled, not to mention the notion that, at last, an African-American had assumed this nation's highest honor.
Etta James, who was not happy at all, remarked to the audience at a concert from the stage of Seattle's Paramount Theatre a week later:
You guys know your president, right? You know the one with the big ears? Wait a minute, he ain't my president. He might be yours; he ain't my president. But I tell you that woman he had singing for him, singing my song — she's going to get her ass whupped.
A week later, she continued savaging Beyoncé's performance by adding
The great Beyoncé. Like I said, she ain't mine. [...] I can't stand Beyoncé. She has no business up there, singing up there on a big ol' president day, gonna be singing my song that I've been singing forever.
However, she later told the New York Daily News she meant no harm when poked fun at the president and she ripped Beyoncé for her performance of "At Last" during the inauguration; James acknowledged being miffed she was not invited to perform her signature song for Obama's first dance with his wife on inauguration night. The event was telecast live on multiple broadcast and cable television networks. At each of the balls, the Obamas' dance song remained "At Last".
"At Last" was included in the set list of Beyoncé's third concert tour I Am... World Tour (2009–2010). It was performed in the penultimate section of the concert when Beyoncé appeared on stage wearing a long gold sparkly gown with lights at her from all around the arena. During the performance, footage of her performing the song at Obama's inauguration, video images of civil rights era footage, and snippets from her performance of the song in the movie Cadillac Records were all shown on the screens behind her. A writer of South Florida Times praised the video montage saying that it was "beautifully" edited and added that Beyoncé made a "perfect melding" of past and present with the performance of the song. Rolling Stone's Caryn Ganz commented that the performance of the song showed a "torchy ... display of vocal gymnastics". Jay Lustig of New Jersey On-Line commented that the performances of "At Last" were "as riveting as anything that had come before" during the concert and noted that "Few pop or R&B divas could be as compelling with all the visual hoopla stripped away." Barbara Ellen of The Observer wrote that there was an interesting segment during the performance of "At Last" on the tour. Alice Jones of The Independent wrote that the live rendition of the song was one of the "big-hitters" during the night. A writer of Evening Chronicle wrote that he was "blown away" by the performance while Mike Ross of the website Jam! added that Beyoncé proved she could sing traditional R&B if she wanted with the cover of "At Last". Jay Hanna of The Sunday Times described the performance of the song as truly inspired with Beyoncé simply standing and delivering the song. Jim Farber of the Daily News gave a mixed performance for the song, noting that "Her run at 'At Last' still lacks the terrific sense of relief Etta James manages effortlessly."
Beyoncé also performed "At Last" live at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival on June 26, 2011. During the ITV special A Night With Beyoncé which aired on December 4, 2011 in the United Kingdom, Beyoncé performed "At Last" to a selected crowd of fans. During The Sound of Change Live charity concert held at Twickenham Stadium in London on June 1, 2013, Beyoncé also performed "At Last". Alice Vincent of The Daily Telegraph noted that the cover reflected the event's purpose and proved Beyoncé can "own a big ballad".
On the Billboard Jazz Songs chart, Beyonce's "At Last" peaked at number 9, becoming her only song to ever appear on that chart. For the week ending December 17, 2011, Beyoncé's version of "At Last" peaked at number 37 on the UK R&B Chart.
|United States||November 3, 2008||Smooth jazz radio||Music World, Columbia|
|November 18, 2008||Digital download|
|October 27, 2009||Urban contemporary radio|
- "The Billboard Music Popularity Chart" (PDF). americanradiohistory.com. August 29, 1942. p. 20. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
- "Grammy Hall of Fame Database". Replay.waybackmachine.org. April 20, 2009. Archived from the original on April 20, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- RCA Victor 27934-B
- "The Billboard Music Popularity Chart" (PDF). americanradiohistory.com. August 1, 1942. p. 22. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
- "The Billboard Music Popularity Chart" (PDF). americanradiohistory.com. November 21, 1942. p. 24. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
- Gilliland, John (1972). "Pop Chronicles 1940s Program #7". UNT Digital Library. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
- The Essential Glenn Miller. Recording Information, p. 33. BMG/RCA/Bluebird, 1995.
- RCA Victor LPT- 3064
- RCA Victor LPT-3065
- At Last/Moonlight Mood. V Disc 12. Discogs.
- "Song artist 659 – Ray Anthony". Tsort.info. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research. p. 360. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
- "Christina Aguilera Pays Tribute to Etta James". Retrieved January 24, 2018.
- "Etta James' Funeral: Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder Pay Tribute". Retrieved January 24, 2018.
- "Etta James' Funeral: Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera Sing". January 31, 2012. Archived from the original on January 31, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
- "Cash Box Top 100 3/11/61". tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on June 2, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
- Chaney, Jen (January 20, 2012). "Etta James, Beyonce and the 'At Last' legacy". The Washington Post.
- Hyman, Dan (January 24, 2012). "Flo Rida and Avicii Remember Etta James". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
- "Etta James Joins Registry 'At Last'". Variety. 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
- "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard.com. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
- "Cash Box Top 100 3/11/61". cashboxmagazine.com. March 11, 1961. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
- "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard.com. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- "Home". Polyhex.com. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
- "Etta James – At Last". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
- "Chart Track: Week 4, 2012". Irish Singles Chart.
- "Italian single certifications – Etta James – At Last" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 9, 2015. Select "Tutti gli anni" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "At Last" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
- "British single certifications – Etta James – At Last". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "American single certifications – Etta James – At Last". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
- "Celine Dion Music: A New Day Has Come". Celine Dion Web. Archived from the original on November 20, 2019. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
- Garat, Frédéric (April 3, 2002). "RFI Musique – - Celine Dion has come back". RFI (France). Archived from the original on October 1, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- "Barnes & Noble | A New Day Has Come by Sony, Celine Dion". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- Cinquemani, Sal (March 16, 2002). "Celine Dion: A New Day Has Come | Music Review | Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
- Sheffield, Rob (April 10, 2002). "Celine Dion: A New Day Has Come : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 5, 2006. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
- Tucker, Ken (March 25, 2002). "A New Day Has Come (2002)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- "Celine Dion Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
- "Beyoncé Belts It Out On 'Cadillac' Soundtrack". Billboard. December 1, 2008. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- Kaufman, Gil (February 5, 2009). "Beyoncé Slammed By Etta James For Singing 'At Last' At Inaugural Ball – Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- Adler, Shawn (November 25, 2008). "Beyoncé, Etta James And 'Cadillac Records' Stars Come Out For Movie's Premiere – MTV Movie News". MTV. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- John Kehe (December 26, 2008). "CD review: Cadillac Records (Music from the motion picture)". The Christian Science Monitor. Christian Science Publishing Society. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- A. O. Scott (December 5, 2008). "Cadillac Records (2008)". The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- "Beyoncé & Co. in 'Cadillac Records'". Entertainment Weekly. March 6, 2009. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
- Thom Jurek (December 2, 2008). "Cadillac Records". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- Robert Fontenot. "Various Artists: Cadillac Records Original Movie Soundtrack". About.com The New York Times Company. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- Watson, Margeaux (November 25, 2011). "Beyoncé in 'Cadillac Records': the EW First Look". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
- "Beyoncé is queen of Grammy Awards". British Broadcasting Corporation. February 1, 2010. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- "New York Pazz and Jop Singles – 2008". The Village Voice. Village Voice Media. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
- Miller, Korin (September 7, 2008). "Beyoncé Knowles flashes wedding ring at Fashion Rocks". Daily News. Retrieved June 27, 2013.
- "At Last: Beyoncé Knowles". Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- Vena, Jocelyn (January 16, 2009). "Beyoncé's Inaugural Song Choice: An Expert Weighs In". MTV News. MTV Networks. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- Melago, Carrie (February 4, 2009). "Etta James takes shots at Beyoncé and President Obama". New York: Nydailynews.com. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- Sean Michaels (February 6, 2009). "Etta James: I'm gonna whup Beyoncé's ass". Guardian. London. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- Melago, Carrie (February 5, 2009). "Etta James truly miffed about Obama snub, but was kidding about disliking Beyoncé". New York: Nydailynews.com. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- Ratliff, Ben (June 22, 2009). "Flash, Concepts and, Yes, Songs". The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Harris, Renee Michelle (July 3, 2009). "Beyoncé Wows Crowd at BankAtlantic Center". South Florida Times. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Ganz, Caryn (June 22, 2009). "Beyoncé Brings Hits, Jay-Z to "I Am ..." Tour opener in New York". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- "Beyoncé / New York (Madison Square Garden)". Billboard. June 21, 2009. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Lustig, Jay (June 22, 2009). "Beyoncé captivates on a tour full of theatrics". New Jersey On-Line. Advance Internet. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Ellen, Barbara (May 24, 2009). "She's a woman of two halves". The Observer. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Jones, Alice (May 27, 2009). "Beyoncé, 02 Arena, London:Diva who answers the call of booty". The Independent. Retrieved May 23, 2009.
- "Review: Beyoncé at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena". Evening Chronicle. Trinity Mirror. May 23, 2009. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Ross, Mike (March 26, 2009). "Rexall Place, Edmonton". Jam!. Sun Media. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Hanna, Jay (September 25, 2009). "Beyoncé Knowles wows Perth fans at Burswood concert". The Sunday Times. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Farber, Jim (June 22, 2009). "Beyoncé shows 'Fierce' and softer sides in tour kickoff at the Garden". Daily News. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- "Beyoncé covers Kings of Leon and Prince at Glastonbury". NME. IPC Media (Time Inc.). June 27, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- Beyoncé Knowles (December 4, 2011). A Night With Beyoncé (video ITV1). The Fountain Studios, London: Victory Television Network in co-production with Sony Music Entertainment. Event occurs at 9pm.
- Sutherland, Mark (June 1, 2013). "Beyoncé Leads a Charge of Powerful Women at Sound of Change". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- Vincent, Alice (June 2, 2013). "Beyoncé, Sound of Change Live, Twickenham Stadium, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- "Beyoncé Album & Song Chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- "R&B Singles Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- "At Last – Beyoncé". Billboard. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
- Beyoncé — At Last. TopHit. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
- "Beyoncé". Billboard.com. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
- "Top Smooth Jazz Songs – 2009 Year End Charts". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
- "R&R Going For Adds: Smooth Jazz (Week Of: November 3, 2008)". Radio & Records. Retrieved August 10, 2012.[permanent dead link]
- "Urban/UAC Future Releases (October 27, 2009)". All Access Music Group. Archived from the original on October 8, 2009. Retrieved August 22, 2012.