Born Jamesetta Hawkins, Etta James rose to prominence according to the New York Times “as of the most compelling voices of the 20th century.” At age 5, she was a star soloist in Los Angeles’ St. Paul Baptist Church. At 15, discovered by music producer Johnny Otis, she had her first hit, “Roll With Me, Henry.”
Along with Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Ray Charles, Etta became a charter member of the elite cadre of pioneers who saw the rise of rhythm and blues transform into rock and roll. Her mid-fifties hit on Modern Records was “Good Rockin’ Daddy.”
At the start of sixties, she was signed to Chess Records where she became one of their most important stars, singing standards like “At Last” and originals like "Something’s Got A Hold on Me.”
In 1968, she recorded a major anthems of the soul era, “Tell Mama,” that ranks alongside Aretha’s “Respect.”
Etta opened for the Rolling Stones in 1981, and before a worldwide television audience sang “When the Saints Go Marching In” at the 1984 Olympics.
In the nineties, she released a series of jazz records, beginning with Mystery Lady: The Songs of Billie Holiday, to critical acclaim.
Etta was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and received a star in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Beyonce portrayed Etta in the 2008 film “Cadillac Records.” “The woman is a creative giant,” wrote one Rolling Stone writer, “a towering figure in the history of American music.”
Etta is survived by her sons Donto and Sametto, husband Artis Mills and seven grandchildren, Karissa, Santiago, Daviano, Savina, D’Rocco, Donaka and Jackson James and longtime manager Lupe Deleon.
A Public Visitation was held on Friday, January 27, 2012 from 5:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. at Inglewood Cemetery Mortuary Manchester Chapel 3801 W. Manchester Boulevard Inglewood, California 90305. The Funeral Service was held on Saturday, January 28, 2012 at City of Refuge Church in Gardena, Ca. The Revered Al Sharpton, Officiated.
Donations may be made to help support Rhythm & Blues and the artists that help create it by sending your donation to:Rhythm & Blues FoundationC/O Philadelphia International Records309 A Broad StreetPhiladelphia, Pa. 19107
Phone: (215) 985-4822Fax: (215) 985-1195
Rhythm & Blues FoundationP.O. Box 22438Philadelphia, Pa. 19101
*Either address is fine checks should be made payable to Rhythm and Blues Foundation
About The Foundation: History
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation had its beginnings in 1987, when legendary performer Ruth Brown brought demands for royalty reform to the attention of Atlantic Records and its founder, Ahmet Ertegun. Founded in 1988, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the historical and cultural preservation of Rhythm & Blues music, and recognition of contributions of its participants to our musical heritage. The Foundation provides financial and medical assistance, educational outreach, performance opportunities and archival activities to support its constituents and fulfill its mission. The Foundation also presents special events like the Pioneer Awards and other programs to recognize artistic contributions and excellence within the Rhythm & Blues music genre. Etta James was awarded the prestigious Pioneer Award in 1989 along with Lavern Baker, Charles Brown, Ruth Brown, The Clovers, Little Jimmy Scott and Percy Sledge.