Saturday, January 21, 2012

Etta James: 1/25/1938 to 1/20/2012

We lost a musical treasure on Friday, as Etta James passed away in a Riverside, California hospital. Her family was by her side.

Etta was a singer that could do it all, from jazz to gospel to rock and rhythm and blues. Though she had her troubles, she often shined, earning 6 Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. Her peers respected her, and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Etta was born 74 years ago as Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California. She did not have a nice childhood or a good home situation, but she started receiving voice lessons at the age of 5 and became a popular singer in her church.

After starting a girl’s doo-wop group, The Creolettes, she got noticed by Johnny Otis and signed to Modern Records. In 1955 she had her first hit, “Dance with Me, Henry”, which hit number 1 on the Hot Rhythm and Blues chart. This got The Peaches (The Creolettes new name) a gig opening up for Little Richard’s national tour.

Of course Etta did not stay with The Peaches forever, and as a solo artist she signed with Chess Records in 1960. Her solo debut album, At Last!, was released that year and included music from several genres, including, jazz, blues, doo-wop and R&B. The early to mid 1960s were really her zenith, with classic songs such as “At Last”, "I Just Want to Make Love to You", "A Sunday Kind of Love", "The Fool That I Am" and "Don't Cry Baby".

In the years that followed, she went through gospel and R&B phases, which produced gems such as "Tell Mama", "I'd Rather Go Blind". and a remake Otis Redding's "Security". After these hits Etta continued to record and play out, and experimented with rock and funk until 1978 when dropped out of recording for about 10 years due to substance abuse troubles.

In 1989, Ms. James released her comeback album Seven Year Itch, after signing with Island Records. The same year she also released a second album, Stickin' to My Guns. These albums renewed interest in Etta’s work, and the next 20 years were full of well-received albums and plenty of awards.

Etta’s last television performance was in April 2009 on Dancing with the Stars, where she performed “At Last", and she continued to tour until 2010, when declining health prevented her from continuing on.

Her husband Artis Mills and her sons Donto and Sametto were with her until she passed. We will all miss you, Etta.

1 comment:

  1. Nice tribute to Etta. We will never forget such a strong voice in the jazz & blues fields.