Letters: Winter Songs; Etta James

Melissa Block and Robert Siegel read emails from listeners.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


It's time now for your letters about music and memories. Yesterday, listener Veronica Horton told us about her winter song, one that brought back that cold of a Thanksgiving weekend in 1963.

Then 12 years old in Western boots, Horton tap-danced on the hood of an old car to a song from Tennessee Ernie Ford.

VERONICA HORTON: "Sixteen Tons" and what do you get? And...

BLOCK: What do you get?

HORTON: You get (singing) another day older and deeper in debt.


TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD: (Singing) Saint Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store.


Well, Jennifer Andreka(ph) of Madison, Wisconsin, tells us that "Sixteen Tons" was her grandfather's theme song. He was born in Croatia, but moved to the U.S. and worked as a coal miner. She writes that her Grandpa Joe felt that "Sixteen Tons" perfectly captured the poverty, degradation and violence in the life of a miner. Although short and slight physically, he was possessed of a powerful bass voice, and on every holiday, he would stand at the head of the table and belt out the song before we ate.

In his later years, she writes, he went with a group of people to celebrate the birthday of a friend in a nursing home. She had dementia and didn't recognize anyone until she noticed Grandpa in the back of the room. She smiled broadly and said in her Croatian accent: ah, "Sixteen Tons."

BLOCK: Finally, last week, we remembered singer Etta James, who died Friday at the age of 73.


ETTA JAMES: (Singing) I want a Sunday kind of love.

BLOCK: Well, Joseph Howell(ph) of Tucson writes this. Growing up, Etta James' Top 10 album was a standard during family barbecues and your story brought back sweet memories of family members laughing and dancing while the cracking and popping vinyl record struggled to do its due diligence to relay Etta's mammoth voice.

SIEGEL: Well, thanks to all who wrote in and please keep your letters coming. Just go to NPR.org and click on Contact Us.


JAMES: (Singing) Oh, yeah. I want a love that's...

BLOCK: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.