Etta James dies at age 73 after cancer battle, Beyonce says: 'This is a huge loss'
Etta James has died at age 73 in California after battling blood cancer for years.
The Grammy-winning R&B, blues and soul singer, known for songs such as "At Last" and "Tell Mama," passed away at a Southern California hospital from complications of her leukemia, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. The singer's sons, Sametto and Donto, and husband Artis Mills, their stepfather, were with her at the time.
James died five days before what would have been her 74th birthday. She had been undergoing treatment for her blood cancer for the past few years and also battled ailments such as dementia and kidney failure. In December 2011, her doctor said that her chronic leukemia was deemed incurable. James spent several weeks in hospital that month and was released on January 5.
In December, Mills was made the permanent conservator over the singer's $1 million estate.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to her family, friends, fans and all who have been stirred by her soulful songs and passion for music," the Recording Academy, who votes on and produces the Grammy Awards, said in a statement obtained by OnTheRedCarpet.com.
James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on Jan. 25, 1938. The Southern California native and church singer began her professional music career in the 1950s and released her debut album, "At Last," in 1961. It contained the title track, which became a hit.
She later became known for songs such as "Pushover," released in 1963, "Tell Mama," which came out in 1967, and "I'd Rather Go Blind," which was released a year later.
James was famously portrayed by fellow R&B singer Beyonce in the 2008 film "Cadillac Records."
"This is a huge loss," Beyonce said about the singer's death, in a message posted on her website on Friday. "Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime."
"Playing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist," Beyonce added. "When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph. Her deeply emotional way of delivering a song told her story with no filter. She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed."
In 2009, Beyonce performed her song "At Last" at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball after Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States. James was quoted as saying Beyonce "had no business" singing the track and that she could not "stand" her, but later told the New York Daily News: "I didn't really mean anything. Even as a little child, I've always had that comedian kind of attitude. ... That's probably what went into it."
James won three Grammys throughout her career - her first came in 1994, for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for her album "Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday." She won her second Grammy in 2003, for Best Contemporary Blues Album for her record "Let's Roll." Her third came in 2004, given for Best Traditional Blues Album for her record "Blues To The Bone."
"Three-time Grammy winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Etta James leaves behind a dynamic legacy spanning six decades," the group added. "Her music knew no boundaries as she explored diverse genres including blues, soul, R&B, rock and roll, gospel and jazz. She will forever be remembered for her timeless ballad 'At Last' and a powerful voice that will echo around the world for generations to come."
Flowers will be placed on the singer's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 11 a.m. on Friday, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. She received her star, located at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard, on April 18, 2003.
Check out a video of Etta James singing "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind" in concert and Beyonce singing "I'd Rather Go Blind," in character as the singer, in a scene from the 2008 film "Cadillac Records."