Etta James, whose assertive, earthy voice lit up such hits as “The Wallflower,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” and the wedding favorite “At Last,” has died, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. She was 73.
She died from complications from leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons by her side, De Leon said.
She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C. James died at a hospital in Riverside, California. She would have turned 74 Wednesday.
“This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world,” De Leon said. “She was a true original who could sing it all — her music defied category.
“I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always.”
The powerhouse singer, known as “Miss Peaches,” lived an eventful life. She first hit the charts as a teenager, taking “The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)” — an “answer record” to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me, Annie” — to No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1955. She joined Chess Records in 1960 and had a string of R&B and pop hits, many with lush string arrangements. After a mid-decade fade, she re-emerged in 1967 with a more hard-edged, soulful sound.
Throughout her career, James overcame a heroin addiction, opened for the Rolling Stones, won six Grammys and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her ups and downs — including a number of health problems — she maintained an optimistic attitude.
“Most of the songs I sing, they have that blue feeling to it. They have that sorry feeling. And I don’t know what I’m sorry about,” she told CNN’s Denise Quan in 2002. “I don’t!”
• Etta James: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etta_James