Etta James

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the great soul and blues wailer Etta James died of complications from leukemia this morning in Riverside, California. She was 73.

As a teenager, James was discovered in 1950 by the bandleader Johnny Otis (who also died this week), and she scored her first minor hit, “Roll With Me, Henry,” in 1954. She toured with Little Richard and went on to sign with the great blues and early-rock label Chess, where she recorded for 18 years. Her best-known song, “At Last,” is one of the all-time classic first-dance wedding jams, but she had many, many other hits. She also overcame heroin addiction and continued to perform and record until very recently. Beyoncé, who played James in the 2008 movie Cadillac Records (and who James didn’t seem to like too much), sang “At Last” to President Obama at his Inaugural Ball.

Below, watch some videos of James performing.

Comments (5)
  1. Tis a shame most people my age either don’t know her at all, or only know her as the vocals in Aviici’s Levels.

  2. this is truly a loss for the musical community! with the passing of this legend, we inch closer to a time when people will nostalgically say: “back in my day, we listened to skrillex”

  3. I could really go for a diet coke right now.

  4. My first step into the wider world of good music started with the blues when I was about 12 (incidently,I didn’t discover this whole “punk” or “indie” business until took off my birkenstocks and Hendrix shirts and went to college). I had always preferred older, gritty, southern, country blues and turned my nose up at blues music with big bands or the slick Chicago sound that arose with Muddy Waters and the rest in the 50s. Then I heard Etta James, specifically the song “Tell Mama”. Everything that I loved about the blues and everything I loved about motown and soul pouring out of one incredible voice. My tastes have expanded a lot since then, but Etta helped me accept that the blues did not have to be about finger-pickin on a porch in the Delta. She will be missed

  5. PORTUGAL. THE MAN “I’d Rather Go Blind” (Etta James -R.I.P.- cover)

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