US Blues Legend Etta James Dies of Leukemia

Posted January 20th, 2012 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
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American blues singer Etta James, best known for her early-1960s hit “At Last,” has died of leukemia.

The singer's manager said the 73-year-old James died Friday at a hospital in California with her husband and two sons by her side. Her manager described her death as a “tremendous loss” for her fans around the world, saying her music “defied category.”

Born Jamesetta Hawkins, James won four Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement Grammy. In 1993, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Despite her professional successes, the singer's life was beset with problems. Her struggle with drug addiction nearly derailed her career, leading to multiple hospital and rehab stays. In 1972, she and her husband were arrested for heroin possession. He took responsibility, serving a long jail sentence.

Etta James used her soulful voice to make famous songs such as “All I Could Do Was Cry” and “I'd Rather Go Blind,” but “At Last” was the song that became her signature.

Written in 1941, the love ballad first became a hit for Glenn Miller and his orchestra before James remade it. Her jazz-infused version has been featured in countless weddings, films and commercials.

U.S. President Barack Obama even danced to the song with his wife, Michelle, at his inaugural ball in 2009. The choice of contemporary R&B singer Beyonce to perform it angered James, who said Beyonce had “no business” singing her song. But James had supported a film the year before in which Beyonce played her and sang the song.