(born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012)
was an American singer-songwriter. She was known as the Mother of Music. Her style spanned a variety of music genres including &b, Soul, rock AND ROLL, JAZZ AND GOSPEL. Starting her career in 1954, she gained fame with hits such as “The Wallflower”, “At Last”, “Tell Mama”, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me”, and “I’d Rather Go Blind” for which she wrote the lyrics. She faced personal problems which held her away from the entertainment world before making a comeback in the late 1980s with the album Seven Year Itch. This basically was a reference to her longing to return to a singing career. The album was produced by Barry Beckett. She released a second album, also produced by Barry Beckett, in 1989 titled Sticking’ to My Guns. Both albums were recorded at FAME Studios. In 1989 James filmed a live concert from the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles with Joe Walsh and Albert Collins, “Jazzvisions: Jump The Blues Away”. She participated in rap singer Def Jef for the song “Droppin’ Rhymes on Drums”, which mixed James’ jazz vocals with hip-hop. In 1990, she received an NAACP Image Award, which is given for “outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts”; an award she cherished as it “was coming from my own people”. In 1992, Etta James then released The RightTime produced by Jerry Wexler on Elektra Records and the following year she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She signed with a new contract with Private Music Records in 1993 and recorded an Album in tribute to Billie Holiday called Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday. The album won Etta James her first Grammy Award for best jazz vocal performance in 1994. In 1995, she released the David Ritz-co authored autobiography, A Rage to Survive, and recorded the album Time After Time. Three years later she issued the Christmas album Etta James Christmas in 1998.
By the mid-1990s, James’ earlier classic music was included in commercials including, most notably, “I Just Wanna Make Love to You”. Due to exposure of the song in a UK commercial, the song reached the top ten of the UK charts in 1996.Continuing to record for Private Music, she released the blues album Matriarch of the Blues in 2000, which had James returning to her R&B roots with Rolling Stone hailing it as a “solid return to roots”, further stating that the album found the singer “reclaiming her throne—and defying anyone to knock her off it”. In 2001, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the latter for her contributions to the developments of both rock and roll music and rockabilly. In April 18, 2003, Etta James received the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Hollywood Walk of Fame, star at 7080 Hollywood Blvd. She received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Her 2004 release, Blue Gardenia, returned James to a jazz music style. Her final album for Private Music, Let’s Roll was released in 2005 and won Etta James a second Grammy for best contemporary blues album In April 2009, the 71-year-old James made her final television appearance performing “At Last” during an appearance on Dancing with the Stars. In May 2009, James received the Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year award from the Blues Foundation, the ninth time James had won the award… She was hospitalized in January 2010 to treat an infection caused by MRSA, a bacterium that is resistant to most antibiotic treatments it was revealed that she was suffering from dementia and leukemia. She had to cancel all 2010 concert dates due to her gradually failing health .In November 2011she released her final album, The Dreamer, which was critically acclaimed upon its release. Etta James made a statement that this would be her final album.
She was diagnosed with leukemia in early 2011. The illness became terminal and she died on January 20, 2012, just five days before her 74th birthday, at Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, California.Her death came three days after that of Johnny Otis, the man who discovered her in the 1950s. Additionally, just 36 days after her death, her sideman Red Holloway also died.
The funeral, presided by Reverend Al Sharpton, took place in Gardena, California eight days after her death she was entombed at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. She leaves behind her son Donto.
She was regarded as having bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll, and is the winner of six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. 1990, she received an NAACP image award, which is given for “outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts”; an award she cherished as it “was coming from my own people.”She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008. Rolling Stone music magazine ranked her number 22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.