Grammy-winning R&B singer Etta James dead at 73

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Etta James

Etta James

Blues singer Etta James, per­haps the quin­tes­sen­tial R&B diva, died Fri­day morn­ing, said her son, Donto James. She was 73.

Her leg­endary ren­di­tion of “At Last” was heard in the sound­tracks of the Simp­sons episodes The Strong Arms Of The Ma (2003) and The Wife Aquatic (2007).

James died of com­pli­ca­tions from leukemia at a River­side, Cal­i­for­nia hos­pi­tal, said Dr. Elaine James, her per­sonal physi­cian. She had been in fail­ing health for years.

Born Jame­setta Hawkins in Los Ange­les on Jan­u­ary 25, 1938, she spent much of her life in the city. Her dusky voice influ­enced gen­er­a­tions of singers, rang­ing from Tina Turner to Bon­nie Raitt and Christina Aguil­era. Bey­once por­trayed her in 2008 movie Cadil­lac Records.

This is a huge loss,” Bey­once said Fri­day in a state­ment on her Web site. “Etta James was one of the great­est vocal­ists of our time. I am so for­tu­nate to have met such a queen. Her musi­cal con­tri­bu­tions will last a lifetime.

Play­ing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist. When she effort­lessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and tri­umph. Her deeply emo­tional way of deliv­er­ing a song told her story with no fil­ter. She was fear­less, and had guts. She will be missed.”

In 1993, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It really does mean a lot,” she told the Los Ange­les Times upon her induc­tion. “It shows that if you’re hang­ing around the candy store long enough, peo­ple start giv­ing you things.”

Her record­ing career spanned six decades. Her naughty 1955 sin­gle “The Wall­flower” (also known as “Roll With Me Henry”) soon made her a national star.

How­ever, James was best known for the bal­lad “At Last.” A 1961 hit, it is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

A 1994 album of jazz stan­dards, Mys­tery Lady, earned James the first Grammy of her career, for jazz vocal per­for­mance. Two other Gram­mys fol­lowed : for 2003’s Let’s Roll, named best con­tem­po­rary blues album, and her 2004 col­lec­tion “Blues to the Bone,” named best tra­di­tional blues album.

Etta James is sur­vived by sons Donto and Sametto James, whom she hired as co-producers; Artis Mills, her hus­band of 42 years; and sev­eral grandchildren.

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