Legendary R&B singer Etta James died at Parkview Hospital on Friday, just days before her 74th birthday.
According to CNN, James died of leukemia complications with her husband and sons by her side. She also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C.
“This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world,” James’ manager, Lupe De Leon, told CNN. “She was a true original who could sing it all – her music defied category,”De Leon said. “I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always.”
James, a six-time Grammy winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is best know for the lush standard “At Last” and influenced generations of singers, including Adele and Christina Aguilera; her enduring popularity was evidenced by a guest spot on the TV show “Dancing With the Stars.” James praised Beyonce’s portrayal of her in the 2008 film “Cadillac Records” and then ripped her for performing “At Last” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration; James later said she had been joking.
The feisty James first hit the charts as a teenager with the racy “The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)” — a musical response to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me, Annie.” Her later hits included “Tell Mama” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles; she never knew who her father was (though she suspected he was pool player Minnesota Fats) and early on spent little time with her mother. Some of her happiest memories were of visits to a relative in Riverside, she said in an interview when she served as Grand Marshal for the city’s Orange Blossom Festival Parade — James eventually moved to the Woodcrest area, which she said reminded her of the hills of Italy. In a nod to her adopted hometown, James once did a free show in front of the city’s historic courthouse.
James, who struggled with drug addiction (including heroin), suffered from numerous health problems in her later years. Her weight was also a problem– it forced her to use a wheelchair for several years, and then James suffered complications from the bariatric surgery that helped her lose an estimated 200 lbs.
In recent months, her son Donto James went to court with James’ husband of more than 40 years, Artis Mills, in a dispute over James’ care. A judge allotted funds for Mills to pay for James’ medical expenses; another hearing was scheduled for February.
James is survived by her sons Donto and Sametto, both of whom performed with their mother and live in the Inland Empire.
Friday, January 20, 2012
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