Born Jamesetta Hawkins on Jan. 25, 1938, James is credited with helping to bridge the gap between rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, her style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and jazz. The beloved chanteuse passed away five days before her 74th birthday. James began her Hall of Fame career in the mid 1950s, when she gained fame with “Dance with Me Henry,” “At Last,” “Tell Mama,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Like many ultra-talented artists, James was plagued by a number of personal demons, including heroin addiction. She eventually made a comeback in the late 1980s with the aptly titled, Seven Year Itch.
Despite her turbulent life — or perhaps, in part, because of it — James was also a highly decorated artisan. She collected six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008. Rolling Stone magazine ranked James No. 22 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and No. 62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists. Her tumultuous journey was so fascinating that it spawned a movie loosely based on James’ life, Cadillac Records, that starred current pop superstar Beyoncé. In April 2009, the 71-year-old James made her final television appearance performing “At Last” during an appearance on “Dancing With the Stars.” –terry shropshire
Click here to view our salute to Etta James.