Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012) was an American singer who performed in various genres, including blues, R&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”. She faced a number of personal problems, including heroin addiction, severe physical abuse, and incarceration, before making a musical comeback in the late 1980s with the album Seven Year Itch.
James’s powerful, deep, earthy voice bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll. She won six Grammy Awards and 17 Blues Music Awards. 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 1999. Rolling Stone magazine ranked James number 22 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time; she was also ranked number 62 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
James was hospitalized in January 2010 to treat an infection caused by MRSA, a bacterium resistant to many antibiotics. During her hospitalization, her son Donto revealed that she had received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 2008.
She was diagnosed with leukemia in early 2011. The illness became terminal, and she died on January 20, 2012, 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 had discovered her in the 1950s. Thirty-six days after her death, her sideman Red Holloway died.
Her funeral was presided over by Reverend Al Sharpton and took place in Gardena, California eight days after her death. Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, and Christina Aguilera each gave a musical tribute. She was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles County, California.