Etta James, whose sultry voice penned such hits as the incredible wedding favorite “At Last,” died in 2012 just a few days before her 74th birthday.
James died from complications from leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons by her side. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C.
Throughout her career, James overcame a heroin addiction, opened for the Rolling Stones, won six Grammys and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her ups and downs — including a number of health problems — she maintained an optimistic attitude.
“Most of the songs I sing, they have that blue feeling to it. They have that sorry feeling. And I don’t know what I’m sorry about,” she told CNN’s Denise Quan in 2002. “I don’t!”
Through it all, she was a spitfire beloved by contemporaries and young up-and-comers.
British songstress and award-winning artist Adele named James as one of her favorite singers, along with Aretha Franklin.
“If you were to look up the word singer in the dictionary, you’d see their names,” Adele said in an interview.
Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles to a teen mother and unknown father. She suspected her father was the pool player Minnesota Fats.
Her birth mother initially took little responsibility and James was raised by a series of people, notably a pair of boardinghouse owners. But she was recognized from a young age for her booming voice, showcased in a South Central Los Angeles church.
She entered rehab in the 1970s for her drug problem but re-established herself with live performances and an album produced by noted R&B mastermind Jerry Wexler. After another stint in rehab — this time at the Betty Ford Clinic — she made a comeback album, “Seven Year Itch,” in 1988.
James mastered a range of styles — from R&B and soul to jazz and blues and sung them all with perfect pitch and passion.
James was portrayed by pop star Beyonce in the 2008 film “Cadillac Records,” about the real-life Chess Records.
Over the years, James had her share of health problems. In the late 1990s she reportedly weighed more than 400 pounds and…