Etta James Dies From Leukemia Complications at Age 73 (VIDEO)

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By Kris Coombs , Christian Post Contributor
January 20, 2012|1:45 pm

Legendary Rhythm and Blues singer Etta James has died at a hospital in Riverside, Calif., her friend and manager, Lupe De Leon told CNN on Friday.

The "At Last" singer, born Jamesetta Hawkins, had a distinctive, soulful voice that belted out American Soul hits like "A Sunday Kind of Love" and "All I do is Cry." She succumbed to complications from leukemia, which she was diagnosed with in 2010, CNN reported.

She is survived by her husband, Artis Mills, and two sons, who were at her side during her final hours, De Leon told CNN.

"This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world," De Leon, James' manager for over 30 years, told CNN. "She was a true original who could sing it all -- her music defied category."

"I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always," De Leon added.

James also suffered from hepatitis C and dementia.

James began vocal training at age five at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles. By 17, James, also known as "Miss Peaches," hit the musical scene hard with "Dance with Me, Henry," which made it to No. 1 on the Hot Rhythm and Blues Tracks chart in 1955.

Legendary Singer Etta James Has Died

Legendary Singer Etta James Has Died

Her success continued throughout the early 1960s, but began to suffer during the middle of the decade with the emergence of Beatlemania.

James resurfaced in 1967 and followed up with edgier hits like "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind."

Her most famous hit to date is the love song "At Last," which she released in 1961. Contemporary Rhythm and Blues crooner, Beyoncé Knowles, sang "At Last" during President Obama's Inauguration Celebration Ball in 2009. Knowles also played the singer in 2008's "Cadillac Records" film.

James also fought through a heroin addiction which threatened to ruin her career for years. She was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. James has also won six Grammy Awards.

"Etta James is unmanageable, and I'm the closest thing she's ever had to a manager," DeLeon told CNN.

James never let her health problems get in the way of her music. Before her Leukemia diagnosis, James also suffered with weight problems and sat down on stage to perform due to bad knees while on tour, CNN reported.

"They said that Etta James is still vulgar," she said in the 2002 interview with CNN's Denise Quan. "I said, 'Oh, how dare 'em say I'm still real vulgar! I'm vulgar because I dance in the chair?' What would they want me to do? Want me to just be still or something like that?"

"I gotta do something."

British soul singer Adele and Beyoncé have both expressed love and admiration for James in the past.

"If you were to look up the word singer in the dictionary, you'd see their names," Adele once said of Etta James and Aretha Franklin in an interview.

"There's a lot going on in Etta James's voice," Bonnie Raitt once told Rolling Stone magazine. "As raw as Etta is, there's a great intelligence and wisdom in her singing."

 

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