i thought she died years ago
a fantastic voice. riphttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/9028424/Etta-James-Soul-legend-dies-in-California.htmlEtta James: Soul legend dies in California
Legendary soul singer Etta James has died of complications from leukaemia in California, her manager has said. http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02115/et_2115389b.jpg
4:40PM GMT 20 Jan 2012
Lupe de Leon said the singer died early Friday at a hospital in Riverside, California. She was 73 years old.
Husband Artis Mills and her sons were at her side, de Leon said. "It's a tremendous loss for her fans around the world," he said. "She'll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category."
James' enduring hits include the yearning, passionate wedding "At Last" - sung by Beyonce to President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle during his 2008 inauguration - and "Tell Mama".
The singer, who also suffered from kidney diseases and dementia, was admitted to hospital last month as she was struggling to breathe. She had been in failing health for several years.
In December her doctor said James was considered terminally ill, and she communicated mostly with nods and simple words. The three-time Grammy Award singer had also battled obesity and was addicted to heroin for many years.
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On January 6 her manager announced that she had left hospital and was resting at home with her husband and her doctor. "We all think it's best for her to be at home," de Leon said.
It is not clear when she was readmitted to hospital.
James was a key figure in the early days of R&B music with hit songs like "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy". But it was her 1961 recording of the ballad "At Last" that put her on the map. She currently has a CD out called "The Dreamer."
She would have turned 74 on Wednesday.
During her illness, her husband Mills and her two sons fought bitterly over control of her $1 million estate, though a deal was later struck keeping Mills as the conservator and capping the singer's expenses at $350,000.
Boldness was as much a trademark of James, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as her platinum-dyed mane.
She scored her first hit when she was just a teenager with the suggestive "Roll With Me, Henry," which had to be changed to "The Wallflower" in order to get airplay.
Over the years, she'd notch many more, carving a niche for herself with her husky, soulful voice and her sassy attitude, which permeated her songs.
But it was the jazz-inflected rendition of "At Last" that would come to define her and make her legendary. The song, which starts with sumptuous strings before James begins to sing, was a remake of a 1941 standard. James made it her own, and her version became the new standard.
But the tender, sweet song belied the turmoil that James - born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles - would endure for much of her life.
Her mother - whom she described in her 1995 autobiography "Rage to Survive" as a scam artist, a substance abuser and unstable - was a fleeting presence in her life during her youth.
She never knew her father, although she had been told that he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats. When she was older, she met him and asked about the rumor. He wouldn't confirm or deny it: as James recalled, he simply told her: "I don't remember everything. I wish I did, but I don't."
She was raised by Lula and Jesse Rogers, who owned the rooming house her mother once lived in. The pair brought up James in the Christian faith, but rhythm and blues soon lured her away from the church, and she found herself drawn to the grittiness of the music.
"My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy," she recalled in her book.
She was doing just that when bandleader Johnny Otis, who also died this week, found her singing on San Francisco street corners with a couple of girlfriends in the early 1950s.
When Otis heard their rendition of "Roll With Me, Henry," he told James to get her mother's permission to accompany him to Los Angeles to make a recording. Instead, the 15-year-old went home and forged her mother's name on a note claiming she was 18.
After her 1955 debut, James toured with Otis' revue, sometimes earning only $10 a night. Things changed for the better in 1959, when she signed with Chicago's legendary Chess label and began cranking out the hits and going on tours with performers such as Bobby Vinton, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers.
Chess Records, whose founder, Leonard Chess, called James their first soul singer, she wrote.
Her professional success, however, was balanced against personal demons - drug addiction.
"I was trying to be cool," she told the AP in 1995, explaining what had led her to try heroin.
She was addicted to the drug for years, beginning in 1960, and it led to a harrowing existence that included time behind bars and sapped her singing abilities and her money, almost destroying her career.
It would take her at least two decades to beat her drug problem - her husband even went to prison for years, taking full responsibility for drugs during an arrest, even though James was culpable.
After she hit rock bottom, she finally quit the habit and managed herself for a while, calling up small clubs and asking them, "Have you ever heard of Etta James?" in order to get gigs.
Eventually, she got regular bookings - even drawing Elizabeth Taylor into an audience. In 1984, she was asked to sing the national anthem at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and her career got the resurgent boost it needed, though she fought addiction again when she got hooked on painkillers in the late 1980s.
Drug addiction wasn't her only problem. She struggled with her weight, and often performed from a wheelchair as she got older and heavier. In the early 2000s, she had weight-loss surgery and shed some 200 pounds.
James performed well into her senior years, and it was "At Last" that kept bringing her the biggest ovations. The song was a perennial that never aged.
James did get her accolades over the years. She was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1993, captured a Grammy in 2003 for best contemporary blues album for "Let's Roll;" one in 2004 for best traditional blues album for "Blues to the Bone;" and one for best jazz vocal performance for 1994's "Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday."
She was also awarded a special Grammy in 2003 for lifetime achievement and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.