Etta James Dies At 73

1.20.2012

By Jon Roth

The powerhouse rhythm and blues singer passed away quietly this morning in Riverside, California.

When you think of reigning queens of rhythm and blues, Billie, Ella and Etta were always on top. Today we lost the last great voice in that trifecta when Etta James, born Jamesetta Hawkins, died of complications to leukemia in Riverside, California.

From her first solo hit, "All I Could Do Was Cry," Etta defined a catalog of great songs with her powerful, husky tone and emotional delivery. Songs like "A Sunday Kind of Love," "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and many more were hugely successful, but she's best remembered for popularizing the ballad "At Last," which is now a staple in the American songbook.

Though she never regained the unanimous popularity she enjoyed in the 1960s, James continued to perform and record. Her work and vocal style are frequently referenced by contemporary artists, most notably Beyonce Knowles (who played Etta in Cadillac Records and performed "At Last" for the Obama's first dance at the Inaugural Ball) and Christina Aguilera, who covered "Something's Got A Hold On Me" in her film Burlesque and attributes Etta as her all-time favorite singer.

Though suffering from dementia and leukemia at the end of her life, Etta remained singing until the end. Her final album, The Dreamer, released in November 2011, met with critical acclaim. She's remembered by her husband Artis Mills, sons Donto and Sametto James, and music lovers the world over

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