Etta James

Etta James
Etta James04.JPG
James performing in France, July 1990
Background information
Birth name Jamesetta Hawkins
Also known as
  • Miss Peaches
  • The Matriarch of R&B
Born (1938-01-25)January 25, 1938
Los Angeles, California, US
Died January 20, 2012(2012-01-20) (aged 73)
Riverside, California, US
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1954–2012
Associated acts

Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012) was an American singer who performed in various genres, including blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, jazz and gospel. Starting her career in 1954, she gained fame with hits such as " The Wallflower", " At Last", " Tell Mama", " Something's Got a Hold on Me", and " I'd Rather Go Blind". [1] She faced a number of personal problems, including heroin addiction, severe physical abuse, and incarceration, before making a musical comeback in the late 1980s with the album Seven Year Itch. [2]

James's powerful, earthy voice bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll. She won six Grammy Awards 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 1999. [3] Rolling Stone magazine ranked James number 22 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time; she was also ranked number 62 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, but was removed from that list in the 2011 "Special Collector's Edition" update. [4] [5]

Early life and career: 1938–1959

Hawkins was born on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles, California, to Dorothy Hawkins, who was 14 at the time. Her father has never been identified. [6] James speculated that she was the daughter of pool player Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, whom she met briefly in 1987. [7] Her mother was frequently absent from their apartment in Watts, conducting relationships with various men, and Jamesetta lived with a series of foster parents, most notably "Sarge" and "Mama" Lu. James referred to her mother as "the Mystery Lady". [6]

James received her first professional vocal training at the age of five from James Earle Hines, musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir at the St. Paul Baptist Church, in south-central Los Angeles. Under his tutelage, she suffered physical abuse during her formative years, with her instructor often punching her in the chest while she sang to force her voice to come from her gut. As a consequence, she developed an unusually strong voice for a child her age. [8] She became a popular singing attraction, and Sarge tried unsuccessfully to pressure the church into compensating their family for her singing.[ citation needed]

Sarge, like the musical director for the choir, was also abusive. During drunken poker games at home, he would awaken Jamesetta in the early morning hours and force her with beatings to sing for his friends. She was a bed-wetter and often soaked with urine on these occasions. The trauma of her foster father forcing her to sing under these humiliating circumstances caused her to have difficulties with singing on demand throughout her career. [9]

In 1950, Mama Lu died, and James's biological mother took her to the Fillmore district of San Francisco. [10] Within a couple of years, she began listening to doo-wop and was inspired to form a girl group, the Creolettes (because of the members' light-skinned complexions).

At the age of 14, she met the musician Johnny Otis. Stories on how they met vary. In Otis's version, she came to his hotel after one of his performances in the city and persuaded him to audition her. Another story was that Otis spotted the Creolettes performing at a Los Angeles nightclub and sought for them to record his " answer song" to Hank Ballard's " Work with Me, Annie". Otis took the group under his wing, helping them sign to Modern Records and changing their name from the Creolettes to the Peaches. He also gave the singer her stage name, transposing Jamesetta into Etta James. James recorded the version, for which she was given credit as co-author, in 1954, and the record was released in early 1955 as " Dance with Me, Henry". The original title of the song was "Roll with Me, Henry", but it was changed to avoid censorship due to the off-color title (roll connoting sexual activity). In February of that year, the song reached number one on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Tracks chart. [11] Its success gave the group an opening spot on Little Richard's national tour. [12]

While James was on tour with Richard, the pop singer Georgia Gibbs recorded a version of James's song, which was released under the title "The Wallflower" and became a crossover hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100, which angered James. After leaving the Peaches, James had another R&B hit with "Good Rockin' Daddy" but struggled with follow-ups. When her contract with Modern came up for renewal in 1960, she signed a contract with Chess Records instead. Shortly afterwards she was involved in a relationship with the singer Harvey Fuqua, the founder of the doo-wop group the Moonglows.

The musician Bobby Murray, toured with James for over 20 years. He wrote that James had her first hit single when she was 15 years old and went steady with B.B. King when she was 16. James believed that King's hit single "Sweet Sixteen" was about her. [13] In early 1955, she and an aspiring singer, the 19-year-old Elvis Presley, then recording for Sun Studios and an avid fan of King's, shared a bill in a large club just outside Memphis. In her autobiography, she noted how impressed she was with the young singer's manners. She also recalled how happy he made her many years later when she found out that it was Presley who had moved her close friend Jackie Wilson from a substandard convalescent home to a more appropriate facility and, as she put it, paid all the expenses. Presley died a year later. Wilson went on to live for another ten years in the care center Presley found for him.

Other Languages
العربية: إيتا جيمس
aragonés: Etta James
Bân-lâm-gú: Etta James
български: Ета Джеймс
bosanski: Etta James
català: Etta James
čeština: Etta Jamesová
Cymraeg: Etta James
dansk: Etta James
Deutsch: Etta James
eesti: Etta James
Ελληνικά: Έτα Τζέιμς
español: Etta James
euskara: Etta James
فارسی: اتا جیمز
français: Etta James
galego: Etta James
한국어: 에타 제임스
Հայերեն: Էտա Ջեյմս
hrvatski: Etta James
Bahasa Indonesia: Etta James
italiano: Etta James
עברית: אטה ג'יימס
Latina: Etta James
Lëtzebuergesch: Etta James
magyar: Etta James
Nederlands: Etta James
norsk: Etta James
norsk nynorsk: Etta James
polski: Etta James
português: Etta James
română: Etta James
русский: Этта Джеймс
shqip: Etta James
Simple English: Etta James
slovenčina: Etta James
српски / srpski: Eta Džejms
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Etta James
suomi: Etta James
svenska: Etta James
Türkçe: Etta James
українська: Етта Джеймс
Tiếng Việt: Etta James
Yorùbá: Etta James
中文: 伊特·珍