Legendary soul and blues singer, Etta James, recently lost her battle against leukemia. As reported by CNN, James died at 73 in Riverside, CA with her loving family by her side.
Etta James was born as Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California. Very early in James’ life, those around her noticed a distinct talent she had for singing. By age five, she was singing gospel in churches. James wasn’t publicly recognized until she moved up to San Francisco and started singing for a group called The Peaches. Through her work with this group, she was dubbed “Miss Peaches” and was recognized by singer Johnny Otis who helped her launch a solo career.
Etta James soon was signed to Chess Records, where she thrived in a long and fruitful partnership. Perhaps her heyday at Chess Records was in the mid-50s, seeing that the singer struggled to succeed in the mid-60s when the British Invasion sound took over radio stations.
In the 70s, James struggled with a heroin addiction and was forced to go to rehab for recovery. Though some might have guessed her career would be over, James continued actively releasing albums and touring through the mid-2000s.
Though her music dwells on the idea of the blues, it appears that James found happiness in her life. In an interview with CNN about a decade ago, James said, “Most of the songs I sing, they have that blue feeling to it. They have that sorry feeling. And I don’t know what I’m sorry about, I don’t!” The legacy of Etta James will live on forever, along with the inspiration she provides to musicians and singers alike.
In memory of Etta James, take a listen to the wedding favorite, “At Last”.