When you think of the greatest rhythm and blues singers ever, the name Etta James always comes to mind. The Grammy-winning artist had a strong voice that left audiences overwhelmed with her soulful sound. Opening for the Rolling Stones in the early 1980s, the singer “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” gained mainstream fame. What fans didn’t know was that her stage name was James, and the musician was born under a different moniker.
The early days of the singer’s career
according to Brittanica, aged 14, the band Johnny Otis found James and took him under his wing. She was playing with a street corner doo-wop group called the Creolettes. Later, the female trio became known as the Peaches. In 1960, James applied for a contract with Chess Records where she created iconic songs such as “All I Could Do Was Cry” and her heartfelt show of “At Last. ”
After making a name for herself in the music industry, James left the record label and embarked on a tour. Unfortunately, heroin addiction that began in the 1960s did not leave her. She also started using cocaine and eventually fell silent for over seven years. In 1988, James returned with her acclaimed album Itch seven years. She continued to record, and in 2011 her single “The Dreamer” became her last song.
Real name Etta James
Etta James was born in Los Angeles, California, on January 25, 1938. Her original name is Jamesetta Hawkins. Her mother, born at the age of 14, placed the child in foster care. Her father was never a big part of James’ life.
She began singing at age 5, and suffered physical abuse from her musical director at the Echoes of Eden church choir in South-Central Los Angeles, according to The Independent. His strong voice was given to him as he violently hit her in the chest to create a gut-wrenching sound.
The legendary singer’s mother returned when James was just 12, and together they moved to San Francisco. It was there that James developed his passion for music and began his illustrious career. Otis has credit for helping James develop the stage name. He suggested she abandon her first name Jamesetta, to become the now famous Etta James.
A life of achievement
James had a strong, lively voice that was unlike any other. Her harsh, deep sound left listeners feeling her soul as she held out one tune after another. She was one of the first women to make music known as soul music.
The acclaimed blues singer won six Grammy Awards and in 2003 received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the industry. In 1993, James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is also a distinguished member of the Blues Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Rolling Stone rated James as number 22 on their list of 100 greatest singers ever. Country singer and nominee Bonnie Raitt said, “There is a lot going on in Etta James’ voice. Lots of pain, lots of life but, especially, lots of strength. “Raitt continued,” It can be so cruel and down one song, and then break your heart with it so flexible and beautiful the next. “
Editors at Rolling Stone They quickly agreed, saying, “James is often thought of as the mum of the last blues, her steamer voice inspired by bronze and sass. ”
The powerful entertainer, who played for more than six decades, died in California on January 20, 2012, at the age of 73. She left a lasting legacy of her iconic rhythm and blues sound. An innumerable bride takes the first dance forever to the soulful sounds of “At Last.”