Etta James’ vocals to resonate at Deer Valley | ParkRecord.com

Etta James’ vocals to resonate at Deer Valley

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

Etta James will perform July 21 at Deer Valley.

Miss Peaches is coming.

The Ideasphere Big Stars, Bright Nights Concert Series will present Etta James at Deer Valley July 21. Local musician Mary Beth Maziarz will open for the legendary singer and songwriter.

"I’m thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to open for Etta James as part of the ‘Big Stars, Bright Nights Series’ at Deer Valley," Maziarz said. "Her music has been such a huge inspiration to me and has accompanied so many meaningful moments in my life; it’s a little wild to think about, what an incredible opportunity."

Maziarz continued her appreciation of the soul singer.

"The soul with which she sings, the experience and feeling in her delivery, wow, it’s just so moving. It transports you as you listen. Imagine how many people’s lives have been touched by her music, her spirit. To be a part of her concert here in Utah is one of the most amazing and exciting opportunities of my musical life. I can’t wait."

The 68-year-old James was dubbed "Miss Peaches" after one of her original singing groups. She has been singing since she received her first professional vocal lesson at the age of five, from James Earle Hines, the musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir at St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles. She has experienced all the waves of various modern music. According to VH1.com, she has adjusted through the age of rhythm and blues and doo-wop in the mid-’50s through soul’s late-’60s and into the ’90s and 2000s (where her 1994 album "Mystery Lady" paid loving jazz-based tribute to one of her idols, Billie Holiday).

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"Etta James’ voice has deepened over the years, coarsened more than a little, but still conveys remarkable passion and pain," according to VH1.com

As happens with many famous musicians’ careers, drug-related issues and romantic problems hindered her. But James overcame those obstacles and was able to maintain a career. She still tours the country. Later in life, James also struggled with obesity. She reached more than 400 pounds, experienced mobility and knee problems, and often needed a wheelchair. In 2003, James underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds.

Although late in age, her voice still rings clear.

"Her latest record is fantastic," Maziarz said. "If you haven’t heard her version of "Purple Rain," you’ll be blown away. And she looks amazing. She’s gorgeous, and her voice sounds better than ever."

James was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. She was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and in 2003 received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Although Maziarz has played in front of large crowds and opened for big acts like John Stewart, this act seems to hold more weight for her.

"I am a little nervous," Maziarz said. "It’s a daunting proposition to open for a legendary performer like Ms. James, but we’re putting a great set together fun, cool, sassy songs that will hopefully feel good for the crowd and properly warm them up for the fantastic show that will follow. I’m so touched that the P.C. Performing Arts Foundation invited me to play…I’ll do my best to do Utah’s musical community proud."

According to Maziarz, Deer Valley is a perfect spot for performances that feature musicians, like James, who the Park City Performing Arts Foundation is bringing this summer.

"I have fortunately had the chance to perform at the amphitheatre at Deer Valley several times in the past, and it’s always special," Maziarz said. "You look out and see all these happy people and the mountains and beautiful skies as they turn pink and gold. Concerts in the mountains bring out something lovely in audiences I think. Early in the night, there’s such a festive atmosphere, with picnics and wine and seeing friends. Then later, as the stars come out and it cools down, everyone pulls the blankets up around them and snuggles up a little to enjoy the night and the music in a different, more intimate way. It’s such a special opportunity to enjoy the music of artists you love."

She continued to rave about James.

"I know how many people have a special place in their heart for Etta James’ music," she said. "To help get an incredible concert night like hers started is going to be amazing and I can’t wait to relax after my set and listen to her myself."

The Ideasphere Big Stars, Bright Nights Concert Series will present Etta James at Deer Valley July 21. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. For tickets call 655-3114.

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