All You Have To Know About Etta James

Who Is Etta James?

Etta James, whose birth name is Jamesetta Hawkins, was born on 25 January 1938, Los Angeles,
California, U.S. She died on 20 January 2012 in Riverside, California. James was popular American
rhythm-and-blues entertainer who in time became a successful ballad singer.

Early Life And Career

James got her first professional vocal training at the age of five from James Earle Hines, who was the
musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir at the St. Paul Baptist Church in South-Central Los
Angeles. She rapidly became known for having an extraordinarily strong voice for a child her age.

She frequently performed in Nashville's famed R&B clubs on the so-called "Chitlin' Circuit" in the
1940s, 50s, and 60s. In 1950, James's biological mother took her to the Fillmore district in San
Francisco. Within a number of years, she started listening to doo-wop and was encouraged put
together form a girl group, the Creolettes (so called for the members' light-skinned skins).

At quite the tender age of 14, she met musician Johnny Otis. Stories about how they met differ:
* In Otis's version, Etta came to his hotel after one of his performances in the city and then
persuaded him to audition her.
* Another story was that Otis saw the Creolettes performing at a Los Angeles nightclub and
wanted them to record a cover to Hank Ballard's "Work with Me, Annie".

Otis took on the Creolettes and assisted them with signing Modern Records, at which point they
changed their name to Peaches. At this time Otis also came up with James her stage name,
swapping” Jamesetta" (her given first name) into "Etta James." In 1954, James’ recorded and was
recognised as co-author for "The Wallflower" (a title change to the abovementioned song, "Work
with Me, Annie"), which was released in the mid-50s.

The original title of the song was really "Roll with Me, Henry" however it had been changed in order
to avoid censorship at the time (roll suggesting sexual activity). In February of 1955, the song reached number one on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Tracks chart. Its success also gave the Peaches an
opening spot on Little Richard's national tour.

Later Years And Death

As she entered her 70s, James started struggling with health issues. She was hospitalised in 2010 for
a blood infection along with other ailments. It was later discovered that the legendary singer
suffered from dementia and was getting treatment for leukaemia.

Her medical condition came to light in court papers that were filed by her husband, Artis Mills. Mills
wanted to gain control over $1 million of James' money, a sum that online pokies NZ players dream
of winning. However he was challenged by James' two sons, Donto and Sametto. The two parties
later worked out an agreement.

James released her last studio album, The Dreamer, in November 2011, which received great
reviews. A few weeks later, James' doctor made an announcement that the singer was terminally ill.
James passed away at her home in Riverside, California, on 20 January 2012. Today, she is still be
considered one of music's most dynamic singers.

Singersroom

Since 2005, Singersroom has been the voice of R&B around the world. Connect with us via social media below.

View all posts by Singersroom →