Legendary singer Etta James (73) Â lost her battle with leukemia this morning at a Riverside, CA hospital from complications with the disease. Her husband and sons were by her side at the time of her death said her manager Lupe De Leon. James was born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles, CA to a mother she had called a scam artist and a drug abuser and never knew her father.
Though she was told and believed that her father was the legendary pool player Minnesota Fats. She was raised by Lulu and Jesse Rodgers who operated the location in which they lived and they encouraged her to sing in the church choir were her voiced got noticed that Hollywood stars would come out to hear her sing.
She would lean to R&B because she like the grittiness of the music and mentioned in her book,Â “My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy.” She was discovered by legend Johnny Otis while she was singing in the streets with other girls in San Francisco in the early 1950’s. In 1955 she released her debut album and toured with Otis and she would sometimes only $10 a night then it will change in 1959 when she began touring with such performers as Little Richard and Fats Domino.Â “We would travel on four buses to all the big auditoriums. And we had a lot of fun,” said, James.
James recording a string of hits such as “Trust In Me,” ”Something’s Got a Hold On Me,” ”Sunday Kind of Love,” ”All I Could Do Was Cry.” Though what would define her career was her rendition of the song,Â “At Last” is what made her a legend.
Though with her success she was also faced with personal obstacles such as an addiction to heroin which she had said she had wanted to be cool.Â “I hung out in Harlem and saw Miles Davis and all the jazz cats,” she continued. “At one time, my heavy role models were all druggies. Billie Holiday sang so groovy. Is that because she’s on drugs? It was in my mind as a young person. I probably thought I was a young Billie Holiday, doing whatever came with that.” This led to her career suffering, being behind bars which took her singing and money and almost lost her career. It took he two years to turn things around she had mentioned about that time in her life,Â “My management was suffering. My career was in the toilet. People tried to help, but I was hell-bent on getting high,” she wrote of her drug habit in 1980.
She would regain her career and would sing the national anthem in 1984 at the opening of the Los Angeles Olympic Games and her career would continue into her senior years. During the inauguration of President Obama he would dance with wife Michelle to Etta James famed “At Last” to single the first African American to become president of the United States.
James wrote in her autobiography, “Rage to Survive” about her career, Â “The bad girls … had the look that I liked,” Â ”I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.”
Inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President and CEO Terry Stewart said,Â “Etta James was a pioneer. Her ever-changing sound has influenced rock and roll, rhythm and blues, pop, soul and jazz artists, marking her place as one of the most important female artists of our time.” Stewart added, “From Janis Joplin to Joss Stone, an incredible number of performers owe their debts to her. There is no mistaking the voice of Etta James, and it will live forever.”
Her last album “The Dreamer” was released in October 2011 to end an amazing career.