You would be hard-pressed to find a greater connection between a song and a performer than the one shared by the late Etta James and her classic “At Last.” The song earned her a special Grammy Hall Of Fame award, and the feisty singer fiercely fought for her right to perform it even as her health deteriorated in her later years. But it might surprise you to hear that it was not a big seller for her originally. On the other hand, it was a huge hit for the guy who’d introduced it a couple of decades earlier — Glenn Miller.
Originally an instrumental composed by Harry Warren, the song went almost unnoticed as one of several performed by Glenn Miller’s band in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade. But the following year lyrics were added by Mack Gordon, and the band not only issued it as a record (as the ‘B’ side for “I’ve Got a Gal In Kalamazoo”) but also featured it in the new movie Orchestra Wives. The newly-reborn song, complete with vocals by Ray Eberle and Pat Friday (dubbing for actress Lynn Bari in the filmed version), became a Top Ten hit for the band and a favorite for swooning fans.
In the years that followed, it would go on to be performed in various arrangements by countless performers, but none would top the one that occurred in 1960 when a lady named Etta James took ownership of the song.