Friday, Jan. 20 marked a sad day for music fans around the world: Etta James, 73, passed away after a two year battle with Leukemia. Born Jamesetta Hawkins, the blues and soul powerhouse has seen much success throughout her lifetime: she was nominated for 18 Grammys and won four, won 17 Blues Music Awards and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame. She had a number one single on the Billboard Charts — “The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)” in 1955 — and has released 28 albums throughout her career.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked her No. 62 on their list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.” She is also said to have dated B.B. King when she was 16-years-old, and has toured with many big names, including Otis Redding, Little Richard and the Rolling Stones.

James’ arguably most famous album was her debut, titled “At Last!”, which was released by Argo Records in 1960 and contained a wide range of music including jazz standards, blues numbers, doo-wop and rhythm and blues. James continued appearing in the R&B Billboard Charts throughout the early 1970s, when she began experimenting with rock and roll and funk.

Kames has reached great fame among a great range of music aficionados. She’s most well-known in blues and soul circles for the title track of her debut album, “At Last”, which reached No. 2 on the US R&B Billboard charts.

“At Last” paved the way for and has influenced many contemporary jazz and blues vocalists, notably Beyoncé Knowles, who portrayed James in the 2008 film “Cadillac Records.” Other artists who claim to be very influenced by James include Diana Ross, Christina Aguilera, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse and Adele.

More recently, James has become well known in the world of electronic dance music for her 1962 single “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” and its intro of “Oooh sometimes, I get a good feeling,” which reached No. 4 on the U.S. R&B Billboard Charts.

The song was first sampled in Pretty Lights’ hit single, “Finally Moving,” off of 2006’s “Taking Up Your Precious Time,” and it was then that Etta James entered the world of electronic music.

Just last year, big-name DJ Avicii sampled James’ famous “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” intro in his hit single “Levels,” which reached No. 1 in both the U.S. and Sweden. Soon after, hip-hop’s Flo Rida used the “Levels” sample in his recent track “Good Feeling,” which peaked at No. 4 in America.

Despite all of her success, James has faced some hardships in the past. James struggled with drug addiction most of her life, most notably a heroin addiction throughout the ’70s, leading to being in and out of rehabilitation facilities for a large portion of her life and several arrests.

Another more notorious moment for James was when she proclaimed a sheer hatred of Beyoncé after the diva portrayed her in “Cadillac Records” and was then invited to sing James’ “At Last” at President Obama’s first inaugural ball.

James was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 — for which she attributed her previous Beyoncé-related comments — and with leukemia in early 2011, which was determined terminal in December 2011.

James died less than two months later on Jan. 20 in Riverside, Ca., with her husband and sons by her side. Musicians everywhere expressed their sense of loss in relation to James’ death including Adele, Kelly Clarkson, drummer ?uestlove, Snoop Dogg and Beyoncé.

Adele wrote a rather heartwarming entry regarding James on her blog: “What a lady Etta James was. She was the ultimate original. Her voice was breath taking and her songs are reflections we all recognize in some way or another. It’s an honor every time I hear her voice. I saw her at B.B. King’s in New York a few years ago, and it was something I will remember forever. Thank you to Etta James. And I send all my love to her family and friends.”

James was a truly influential powerhouse and spectacle, and although she will be missed, her legacy and memory will live on and will continue inspiring musicians worldwide.



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