Etta James Dead at 73

Succumbs to complications of leukemia, says manager

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 20, 2012 10:54 AM CST | Updated Jan 20, 2012 11:33 AM CST

(Newser) – Etta James has died at age 73, with her husband and sons by her bedside at a California hospital, her manager says. The legendary R&B chanteuse was reported to be "in pretty bad shape" in recent months; she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, and court documents revealed she was also suffering from dementia. The six-time Grammy winner will forever be best remembered for "At Last," writes the AP, which reflects on the magnetic and saucy singer—whom it dubs "one of music's original bad girls."

"The bad girls ... had the look that I liked," James wrote in her 1995 autobiography. "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." And so a 15-year-old James forged her mother's signature on a note claiming to be 18 and traveled from San Francisco to LA where she recorded "Roll With Me, Henry." She spent the late '50s and '60s touring with big names like Little Richard and Fats Domino, before falling into a heroin addiction that took her two decades to kick. She eventually returned to the stage, but later struggled with her weight and a painkiller addiction. "At Last" was famously played at Barack Obama's January 2009 inauguration—though James wasn't altogether pleased.

Etta James arriving at the premiere of "Cadillac Records" in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
In this April 29, 2006 photo, Etta James performs during the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans.   (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)
In this Sept. 22, 1974, photo, Muhammad Ali plays a few notes on the piano as singer Etta James looks on.   (AP Photo/Horst Faas)
In this Saturday, June 19, 2004, photo, Etta James & The Roots Band perform at the 26th annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
In this Friday, April 18, 2003, photo, legendary singer Etta James points to her star after an unveiling ceremony on the Walk of Fame, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Singer Etta James arrives at the premiere of 'Cadillac Records' held at The Egyptian Theater on November 24, 2008 in Hollywood, California.   (Getty Images)
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