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You are here: Entertainment Celebrity Gossip Grammy-award winning singer Etta James dies at 73 after battle with leukaemia

Grammy-award winning singer Etta James dies at 73 after battle with leukaemia

Blues singer Etta James has died at 73 after a battle with leukaemia.

James, who also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C, died at a hospital in Riverside, California, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon.

Her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons Donto and Sametto were by her side.

'This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world,' De Leon told CNN.

'She was a true original who could sing it all - her music defied category.

'I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always.'

The iconic entertainer had been battling poor heath in recent months and died just shy of her 74th birthday.

James's doctor recently announced that she has been diagnosed with terminal leukaemia.

The Grammy-winner and Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame member was also suffering from dementia. She has been receiving mostly at-home care.

Elaine James, who isn't a relation, has cared for at her Riverside, California home since March 2010.

Last month Elaine asked for fans to pray for the star.

The iconic musical figure has six Grammy Awards to her credit.

Her hits include The Wallflower, Something's Got a Hold on me and the iconic 1961 number At Last, which has become a favourite at weddings.

President Obama and the first lady famously danced to a version of the song sung by Beyonce at his inauguration ball.

Away from the music, the platinum blonde was known as a hell-raiser who had tempestuous relationships with her family, her men and the music industry.

Then she spent years battling a drug addiction that she admitted sapped away at her great talents, giving her a reputation as one of music's original bad girls.

'The bad girls had the look that I liked,' she wrote in her 1995 autobiography, Rage to Survive. 'I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.'

Despite the reputation she cultivated, she would always be remembered best for At Last.

The jazz-inflected rendition wasn't the original, but it would become the most famous and the song that would define her as a legendary singer.

But the tender song belied the turmoil in her personal life.

James was born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles on January 25 1938 to a mother whom she variously described as a scam artist, a substance abuser and a fleeting presence during her youth.

She never knew her father, although she was told and had believed, that he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats.

He neither confirmed nor denied it: when they met, he simply told her: 'I don't remember everything. I wish I did, but I don't.'

She was brought up in the Christian faith by foster parents Lula and Jesse Rogers, and as a young girl, her voice stood out in the church choir.

James impressed with her solo singing in the choir and became so well known, she said that Hollywood stars would come to see her perform.

But she wouldn't stay a gospel singer for long. Rhythm and blues lured her away from the church, and she found herself drawn to the grittiness of the music.

'My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy,' she recalled in her book.

After bandleader Johnny Otis discovered her singing with a group of girlfriends in the early 1950s, he told James to get her mother's permission to accompany him to Los Angeles to make a recording.

After changing her name to Etta James, she had a hit with Dance With Me Henry and toured with Otis's band.

In 1959, she signed with Chicago's legendary Chess label, began cranking out the hits and going on tours with performers such as Bobby Vinton, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers.

'We would travel on four buses to all the big auditoriums. And we had a lot of fun,' she recalled in 1987.

James recorded a string of hits in the late 1950s and 1960s including Trust In Me, Something's Got a Hold On Me, Sunday Kind of Love, All I Could Do Was Cry, and of course, At Last.

In 1967, she made one of the most highly regarded soul albums of all time.

Tell Mama was an earthy fusion of rock and gospel music featuring blistering horn arrangements, funky rhythms and a church-style chorus.

Her professional success, however, was balanced against her personal demons, namely a drug addiction.

'I was trying to be cool,' she told the AP in 1995, explaining what had led her to try heroin.

'I hung out in Harlem and saw Miles Davis and all the jazz cats,' she added. 'At one time, my heavy role models were all druggies.

'Billie Holiday sang so groovy. Is that because she's on drugs? It was in my mind as a young person. I probably thought I was a young Billie Holiday, doing whatever came with that.'

She was addicted to the drug for years, and it led to a harrowing existence that included time behind bars. It sapped her singing abilities, her money and eventually, almost destroyed her career.

It would take her at least two decades to beat her drug problem. Her husband, Artis Mills, even went to prison for ten years in 1972, when both he and James were arrested on drugs charges - taking full responsibility for both of them.

'My management was suffering. My career was in the toilet. People tried to help, but I was hell-bent on getting high,' she wrote of her drug habit in 1980.

She finally quit the habit and in 1984, she was tapped to sing the national anthem at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and her career got the resurgent boost it needed, though she fought addiction again when she got hooked on painkillers in the late 1980s.

Drug addiction wasn't her only problem. She struggled with her weight, and often performed from a wheelchair as she got older and heavier. In the early 2000s, she had weight-loss surgery and shed around 200 pounds.

Back in 2008, Beyonce played the star in Cadillac Records, a big-screen retelling of Chess Records's heyday, with James making an appearance alongside the young pretender at the film's premiere.

James was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1993, and her six Grammy awards included a 2003 gong for lifetime achievement.

 

Blues singer Etta James has died at 73 after a battle with leukaemia.

James, who also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C, died at a hospital in Riverside, California, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon.

Her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons Donto and Sametto were by her side.

'This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world,' De Leon told CNN.

'She was a true original who could sing it all - her music defied category.

'I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always.'

The iconic entertainer had been battling poor heath in recent months and died just shy of her 74th birthday.

James's doctor recently announced that she has been diagnosed with terminal leukaemia.

The Grammy-winner and Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame member was also suffering from dementia. She has been receiving mostly at-home care.

Elaine James, who isn't a relation, has cared for at her Riverside, California home since March 2010.

Last month Elaine asked for fans to pray for the star.

The iconic musical figure has six Grammy Awards to her credit.

Her hits include The Wallflower, Something's Got a Hold on me and the iconic 1961 number At Last, which has become a favourite at weddings.

President Obama and the first lady famously danced to a version of the song sung by Beyonce at his inauguration ball.

Away from the music, the platinum blonde was known as a hell-raiser who had tempestuous relationships with her family, her men and the music industry.

Then she spent years battling a drug addiction that she admitted sapped away at her great talents, giving her a reputation as one of music's original bad girls.

'The bad girls had the look that I liked,' she wrote in her 1995 autobiography, Rage to Survive. 'I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be.'

Despite the reputation she cultivated, she would always be remembered best for At Last.

The jazz-inflected rendition wasn't the original, but it would become the most famous and the song that would define her as a legendary singer.

But the tender song belied the turmoil in her personal life.

James was born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles on January 25 1938 to a mother whom she variously described as a scam artist, a substance abuser and a fleeting presence during her youth.

She never knew her father, although she was told and had believed, that he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats.

 

He neither confirmed nor denied it: when they met, he simply told her: 'I don't remember everything. I wish I did, but I don't.'

She was brought up in the Christian faith by foster parents Lula and Jesse Rogers, and as a young girl, her voice stood out in the church choir.

James impressed with her solo singing in the choir and became so well known, she said that Hollywood stars would come to see her perform.

But she wouldn't stay a gospel singer for long. Rhythm and blues lured her away from the church, and she found herself drawn to the grittiness of the music.

'My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy,' she recalled in her book.

After bandleader Johnny Otis discovered her singing with a group of girlfriends in the early 1950s, he told James to get her mother's permission to accompany him to Los Angeles to make a recording.

After changing her name to Etta James, she had a hit with Dance With Me Henry and toured with Otis's band.

In 1959, she signed with Chicago's legendary Chess label, began cranking out the hits and going on tours with performers such as Bobby Vinton, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers.

'We would travel on four buses to all the big auditoriums. And we had a lot of fun,' she recalled in 1987.

James recorded a string of hits in the late 1950s and 1960s including Trust In Me, Something's Got a Hold On Me, Sunday Kind of Love, All I Could Do Was Cry, and of course, At Last.

In 1967, she made one of the most highly regarded soul albums of all time.

Tell Mama was an earthy fusion of rock and gospel music featuring blistering horn arrangements, funky rhythms and a church-style chorus.

Her professional success, however, was balanced against her personal demons, namely a drug addiction.

'I was trying to be cool,' she told the AP in 1995, explaining what had led her to try heroin.

'I hung out in Harlem and saw Miles Davis and all the jazz cats,' she added. 'At one time, my heavy role models were all druggies.

'Billie Holiday sang so groovy. Is that because she's on drugs? It was in my mind as a young person. I probably thought I was a young Billie Holiday, doing whatever came with that.'

She was addicted to the drug for years, and it led to a harrowing existence that included time behind bars. It sapped her singing abilities, her money and eventually, almost destroyed her career.

It would take her at least two decades to beat her drug problem. Her husband, Artis Mills, even went to prison for ten years in 1972, when both he and James were arrested on drugs charges - taking full responsibility for both of them.

'My management was suffering. My career was in the toilet. People tried to help, but I was hell-bent on getting high,' she wrote of her drug habit in 1980.

She finally quit the habit and in 1984, she was tapped to sing the national anthem at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and her career got the resurgent boost it needed, though she fought addiction again when she got hooked on painkillers in the late 1980s.

Drug addiction wasn't her only problem. She struggled with her weight, and often performed from a wheelchair as she got older and heavier. In the early 2000s, she had weight-loss surgery and shed around 200 pounds.

Back in 2008, Beyonce played the star in Cadillac Records, a big-screen retelling of Chess Records's heyday, with James making an appearance alongside the young pretender at the film's premiere.

James was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1993, and her six Grammy awards included a 2003 gong for lifetime achievement.

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