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Image: Etta James
Matt Sayles  /  AP file
“I can’t stand Beyonce, she had no business up there singing ... my song that I’ve been singing forever,” Etta James told a concert audience in Seattle on Jan. 28.
Access Hollywood
updated 2/6/2009 10:50:02 AM ET 2009-02-06T15:50:02

Etta James might have put superstar Beyonce on blast for singing her signature song, “At Last,” at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball after Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, but the music legend said it was just a joke.

During a concert in Seattle on Jan. 28, James told the crowd, “I tell you, that woman he has singing for him, singing my song, she gonna get her ass whipped ... I can’t stand Beyonce, she had no business up there singing ... my song that I’ve been singing forever.”

However on Thursday, James told The New York Daily News, “I didn’t really mean anything. Even as a little child, I’ve always had that comedian kind of attitude. ... That’s probably what went into it.

“Nobody was getting mad at me in Seattle,” she said. “They were all laughing, and it was funny.”

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The singer did admit to being a little hurt that she was not invited to sing for President Obama, saying she was “feeling left out of something that was basically mine, that I had done every time you look around.”

And when it came to rating Beyonce’s rendition of her iconic song, James said she liked it, but when asked if she could have performed it better, she said, “I think so. That’s a shame to say that.”

As for President Obama, who James referred to as “the one with the big ears,” she believes he’s focused on more important things.

“I still had my joke about him. That might be horrible. The president might not ever like me in life,” she said. “He’s got other stuff (to worry about) besides Etta James.”

As for “At Last” — while it may be James’ trademark tune, the track was first performed by Glenn Miller and his orchestra in 1941 and later by Nat King Cole in 1957. James debuted her version in 1961.

The writers of the song are Mack Gordon and Henry Warren, who penned a number of ’40s hits, including “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” (the first gold record ever with sales of 1,200,000), “You’ll Never Know,” “The More I See You” and “I’ve Got a Gal In Kalamazoo,” all No. 1 singles.

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