Vocalist Etta James, best known for her hit At Last, died this morning at a Riverside, California hospital due to complications of leukemia, according to her manager Lupe De Leon.
The “Matriarch of the Blues” has died. Music legend Etta James died Friday morning at Riverside Community Hospital in California of complications from leukemia. She was 73.
She was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Her first manager and promoter cut up Jamesetta’s name and reversed it: Etta James.
Her talent was discovered when she was 14 — the same age her mother was when James was born. Within three years, the foster-home runaway had her first hit, with the girl group The Peaches. Back then, “Roll With Me Henry” was deemed too racy for radio, “roll” being a sexual euphemism.
Etta James was still a minor when she toured with Little Richard. Then, she signed with leading blues label Chess Records and bleached her hair platinum blond.
“What I was doing was trying to be a glamour girl,” she told NPR’s Fresh Air in 1994. “Because I’d been a tomboy, and I wanted to look grown and wanted to wear high-heeled shoes and fishtail gowns and big, long rhinestone earrings.”
From the New York Times: Etta James, Powerful Voice Behind ‘At Last,’ Dies at 73
From KPLU: Remembering Etta James: Songs on YouTube