Etta James’ performance of the poignant classic “At Last” was the testament to James” amazing vocal ability. Young and old people alike related as she joyfully sung about a love finally realized.
However, the soft image James potrayed in that song was far from the Etta James family and friends knew. The everchanging singer’s first hit was a racy R&B song of a sexual nature, and she was known to have a hot temper who had difficult relationships with her family, her men and the music industry. In addition to a well known temper, James’ drug habit often took center stage a chipped away at her talent.
The 73-year-old died on Friday at Riverside Community Hospital from complications of leukemia, with her husband and sons at her side, her manager, Lupe De Leon said.
“It’s a tremendous loss for her fans around the world,” he said. “She’ll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category.” James’ music and legacy will live on for many reasons. Maybe it was her anything goes attitude or her real-life flaws that made her and her music strike a cord with white and black audiences. It is surely what made her so dynamic as one of R&B, blues and rock ‘n’ roll’s underrated legends. “The bad girls … had the look that I liked,” she wrote in her 1995 autobiography, “Rage to Survive.” ”I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.” “Etta James was a pioneer. Her ever-changing sound has influenced rock and roll, rhythm and blues, pop, soul and jazz artists, marking her place as one of the most important female artists of our time,” said Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President and CEO Terry Stewart. “From Janis Joplin to Joss Stone, an incredible number of performers owe their debts to her. There is no mistaking the voice of Etta James, and it will live forever.”