Etta James R.I.P. 1938-2012


R&B singer felled
by complications from leukemia. See classic videos, below.


By Fred Mills


Blues and soul giant Etta James has died today in California at the age of
73, following a long battle with leukemia. Lupe De Leon, her manager, first confirmed the news to CNN, saying, “This is a
tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world. She was
a true original who could sing it all – her music defied category. I worked
with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always.”


James had undergone a series of health problems over the course
of the past two years and had stopped performing as of January of 2010 not long
after being diagnosed with the blood cancer. Still, she was able to complete
one final album, The Dreamer, which
was released last November.


A musical force of nature, James was discovered by R&B
bandleader Johnny Otis (who also passed away this week) and soon stormed the
R&B charts in 1955 with the bawdy “The Wallflower (Roll With M, Henry)” and
went on to become a mainstay of the Chess Records stable of artists, continuing
to cut R&B and soul hits (must-listen: steamy ballad “At Last,” and the
oft-covered “I’d Rather Go Blind”). Over the course of her long career she
notched six Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She was even portrayed onscreen by Beyonce in the 2008 film Cadillac Records.


James also had a tumultuous life that included weight issues
and a lengthy addition to heroin. Much of that life was chronicled in her
autobiography Rage To Survive which –
title instructive – was a raw, candid, at times harrowing but ultimately
inspiring, volume, and one of the greatest-ever music books.


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