January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012
Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles, California. Etta was an American singer whose style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, gospel and jazz. Starting her career in the mid 1950s, she gained fame with hits such as “Dance With Me, Henry”, “At Last”, “Tell Mama”, and “I’d Rather Go Blind” for which she claimed she wrote the lyrics. James is the winner of six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. She was inducted into the Rock & 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 ranked James number 22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.
Etta James had once been considered one of the most overlooked blues and R&B musicians in American music history. It wasn’t until the early 1990s when James began receiving major industry awards from the Grammys and the Blues Foundation that she began to receive wide recognition. In 2011 James was voted one the Best Singers On Earth by viewers to Btoe, the multimedia Web site founded by Colin Larkin, creator of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music. In recent years, she has been seen as bridging the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll. James has influenced a wide variety of American musicians including Diana Ross, Christina Aguilera, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, and Hayley Williams of Paramore as well as British artists The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Elkie Brooks, Amy Winehouse, Paloma Faith, Joss Stone and Adele.
Etta James had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 and in early 2011 she was diagnosed with leukemia. The illness was announced as terminal by Dr. Elaine James in December, 2011, in a plea for prayers from fans. On January 20, 2012, longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon, stated that James had died with her husband and sons by her side at Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, California.