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Music Enthusiasts Mourn Passing of Etta James

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By BVN Staff –

Music lovers are mourning the loss of Etta “Miss Peaches” James, who died this past Friday of complications from Leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills and sons Donto and Sametto James by her side.

James, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, had suffered from dementia and hepatitis C. She passed at a hospital in Riverside stated her longtime manager Lupe DeLeon. She would have been 74-years-old yesterday.

A private funeral has been planned for this Saturday for James at the Greater Bethany Community Church City of Refuge in Gardena.

Born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles. As a child, Etta was a gospel prodigy, singing in her church choir and on the radio at the age of 5. When she turned 12, she moved north to San Francisco where she formed a trio and was soon working for bandleader Johnny Otis.

In 1954, she moved to Los Angeles to record "The Wallflower" (a tamer title for the then-risqué "Roll with Me Henry") with the Otis band. It was that year that the young singer became Etta James (an shortened version of her first name) and her vocal group was dubbed The Peaches (also Etta's nickname). Soon after, James launched her solo career with such hits as "Good Rockin' Daddy" in 1955.

After signing with Chicago's Chess Records in 1960, James' career began to soar. Chart toppers included duets with then-boyfriend Harvey Fuqua, the heart-breaking ballad "All I Could Do Was Cry," "At Last" and "Trust in Me." But James' talents weren't reserved for powerful ballads. She knew how to rock a house, and did so with such gospel-charged tunes as "Something's Got a Hold On Me" in 1962 and "In The Basement" in 1966. James continued to work with Chess throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Sadly, heroin addiction affected both her personal and professional life, but despite her continued drug problems she persisted in making new albums.

In 1967, James recorded with the Muscle Shoals house band in the Fame studios, and the collaboration resulted in the triumphant Tell Mama album.

With suggestive stage antics and a sassy attitude, James continued to perform and record well into the 1990s. Always soulful, her extraordinary voice was showcased to great effect on her recent private releases, including Blue Gardenia, which rose to the top of the Bil lboard jazz chart. In 2003, James underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds.

The dramatic weight loss had an impact on her voice, as she told Ebony magazine that year. "I can sing lower, higher and louder," James explained.

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