Sad news in the music world today, CNN reports that legendary singer [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Etta James[/lastfm] has passed away at the age of 73 in a hospital in Riverside, according to her friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. She would have turned 74 on Wednesday.
“This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world,” Lupe DeLeon tells CNN. “She was a true original who could sing it all — her music defied category.”
The legendary soul singer has battled multiple ailments of Leukemia, dementia and kidney problems for the better part of last year, and has been hospitalized for serious infections and breathing problems in recent months. Today, we remember her life and legacy of her music that touched the world.
A Los Angeles native, born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, her stage name Etta James was dubbed by musician Johnny Otis (another music legend we lost this week) in her early career as part of the all-girl group The Creolettes. Otis took the group under his wing and helped them sign under the label Modern Records changing the name to Peaches, where they recorded their first hit “Dance With Me, Henry.”
The song reached No.1 on the Hot Rhythm and Blues charts in 1955 and helped the group get an opening slot on Little Richard’s national tour. After gaining exposure from the tour, Etta left the group for a solo career and had success with her hit “Good Rockin’ Daddy,” but struggled to have any follow up hits.
She signed on to Chess Records’ subsidiary label Argo for the release of her 1960 debut solo album, At Last, which featured her first solo doo-wop hit “All I Could Do Was Cry” that reached No.2 on the R&B charts. The album received much critical acclaim due to Etta’s diverse range of styles from blues, soul, doo-wop, jazz and rock and roll.
In 1961, Etta released her signature ballad “At Last,” which became her most notable hit of her career. Though the song only reached No.2 on the R&B charts and 47 on the Hot 100, Etta’s original version is still recognized as the most memorable and helped make her a household name.
Following the success of her debut album, Etta continued recording on Chess Records and had a slew of charting hits including “Trust In Me,” “Losers Weepers,” and “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.” Her musical style continued to evolve through the years, incorporating various elements like gospel, funk and more rock into her music.
Through her career, Etta has released 28 studio albums, three live albums and six compilations. In 2011, Etta returned in 2011 with what she announced as her final album, The Dreamer. Her music also received crossover attention in 2011 after a sample of her hit “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” was used in rapper [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Flo Rider[/lastfm]’s hit pop song, “Good Feeling.”
Etta’s career accomplishments include winning six GRAMMY awards, 17 Blues Music Awards, being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008. Rolling Stone magazine also ranked her at #22 of their 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and #62 of 100 Greatest Artists.
Though she battled personal lows with drug and alcohol addiction during her life and career, Etta will be remembered for her compelling, passionate voice and her ability to transcend various musical styles that sets her apart from other artists.
Etta has left a lasting influence in music for generations to come, and she now rests in peace, at last.