Iconic Singer Etta James Dead at 73



Blues, Jazz, R& B legend Etta James has passed away. She was 73.

According to her longtime manager and friend, Lupe De Leon, Etta James “died from complications from leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons by her side.”

Etta James was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010. She also suffered from hepatitis C and dementia.  James passed away at a hospital in Riverside, California. She would have turned 74 next Wednesday.

Her manager Lupe De Leon said, “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.”

Etta James music did defy category. Throughout Etta James’ long career, she “overcame a heroin addiction, opened for the Rolling Stones, won six Grammys and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Despite her ups and downs — including a number of health problems — she maintained an optimistic attitude.

“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,” she told CNN’s Denise Quan in 2002. “I don’t!”

Etta might not have known what she was “sorry about,” but her music spoke to soul deep to her fans and admirers. From her iconic love song, At Last to her rocking version of I Just Wanna Make Love To You, Etta James struck a chord in the romantic and heart broken in us all.

Etta James was born on January 25, 1938, as Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California.

Her mother was a teenaged African-American. She never knew her father and liked to speculate he was the famous pool player Minnesota Fats. Mrs. James was reared by her grandparents and caregivers. She grew up and toured with the late Johnny “Guitar” Watson and was discovered in 1951 by West Coast bandleader Johnny Otis.

I think perhaps one of my all time favorite Etta James songs is this one:

The Washington Post’s Adam Bernstein’s obituary calls James “a widely admired musical interpreter of love and pain and one of the first rhythm-and-blues singers with a large mainstream following”

Rest in peace Etta… You will be missed… Your music will live on to remind us all of your powerhouse voice, that soothed our weary heartbroken souls and rocked us to our core:


Check out “Etta James: A playlist and reviews from the Post archives” and “Etta James: Recommended listening.”

UPDATE: There’s more Etta James videos at PamelaLeavey.com.

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