Can we please have a moment of silence for soul icon Etta James. The blues songbird with the husky, soulful voice died on Friday (Jan. 20) have a long bout of declining health that included leukemia, kidney failure and dementia. She was 73 years old.
James died at a hospital in Riverside, Calif., just five days shy of her 74th birthday (Jan. 25). "This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world," said James' longtime manager Lupe De Leon. "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."
Etta James, whose real name is Jamesetta Hawkins, helped lay the foundations of rock and rhythm & blues music with her influential recordings in the 1950s and 1960s. Although she recorded a slew of memorable songs for the famous Chess Records label, James will be forever remembered for her one signature tune, "At Last."
Chess co-founder Leonard Chess handpicked James to sing the classic ballad, which was originally written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the 1941 film musical Orchestra Wives. "At Last" reached the No. 2 spot on the R&B chart in 1962 and has be covered by a slew of artists including Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Lou Rawls, Miles Davis and many other performers.
James retired from music in 2010 when it was announced she was suffering with Alzheimer's disease. She released her final studio album in that year titled The Dreamer. In a statement, James told her followers, "I wish to thank all my fans who have shown me love and support over all these years. I love you all."
In 2008, Beyoncé played James in the biographical film Cadillac Records. The R&B mom also performed "At Last" during the 2009 Inaugural Ball for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Bey-Bey wrote a touching eulogy to Etta James on her blog. It reads:
"This is a huge loss. Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime. Playing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist. When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph. Her deeply emotional way of delivering a song told her story with no filter. She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed."
Among James' accolades include six Grammy Awards and inductions into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2001.
Etta James leaves behind her husband, Artis Mills, and her two sons (from a previous marriage) Donto and his brother, Sametto, and seven grandchildren.
Rest in Peace, Etta James.
At last . . . you are finally home in heaven. God bless.
Other Etta James Tributes:
Funky 16 Corners -- Etta James (1938-2012)