Etta James, an icon of mid-century soul and R&B, has passed away in Riverside, Calif., after a long battle with leukemia. She was 73.
Born Jamesetta Hawkins to an unwed 14-year-old mother in Los Angeles in 1938, James began singing in church as a child, and by age 12 had moved to San Francisco, where she formed a doo-wop trio called the Creolettes. Returning to L.A. in 1954, she rechristened the group the Peaches, changed her own name to Etta James, and professionally recorded her first song,”The Wallflower”; a solo recording contract soon followed.
Her 18-year tenure at Chicago’s Chess Records — partly documented in the 2008 film Cadillac Records, in which Beyoncé famously played the singer — led to James’ most fertile period commercially, even as it coincided with her increasingly heavy use of heroin and alcohol. READ FULL STORY