While I primarily recall her in the above two genres, she also spanned Gospel, Rock, R & B and Jazz. She influenced generations of female singers from Janis Joplin to Joss Stone.

Noted bandleader Johnny Otis, known as the ‘Godfather of Rhythm and Blues’ who coincidentally died last Tuesday, heard Etta singing and asked her to get her mother’s permission to come to L.A. to make a recording. She forged her mother’s name on a letter saying she was 18. She was 15. She debuted in 1955 touring with the Otis band earning $10 a night and in 1959 was signed to the legendary Chess label and was touring with the likes of Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, The Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The 60’s saw her flourish and record many of her stand out classics including the amazing ‘At Last’ – God I love that song!!!

She struggled with many demons. Heavy drug addiction starting in 1960 — weight fluctuations that saw her performing in a wheelchair as she got older and heavier.

Her classics including ‘Tell Mama’ – ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ and of course ‘At Last’ are permanent fixtures in the great American Songbook.

She won six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. She was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001. Rolling Stone magazine rated her as number 22 on the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

In 1974 she was the opening act for The Rolling Stones! What I don’t know or can’t recall is whether Jagger brought her out on stage to duet with him on ‘Gimme Shelter’? If so – it would have been an extraordinary music moment to see and hear.

Etta James death was a result of leukemia. She passed away Friday 20th January, just five days short of her 74th birthday. Another musical Aquarian gone.





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