Jamesetta Hawkins was born on January 25, 1938, and though her family or the world didn’t know it yet, she was going to be a legendary artist. Etta James, the stage name the star eventually adopted, is considered to be one of the most iconic and talented musicians that the industry has encountered. The singer’s passion began with her church’s choir at a very young age. James was only five years old when her skills were already being featured on the radio. When she was 12 James left Los Angeles for San Francisco to join a trio. With the band, James recorded “The Wallflower,” but it was only a matter of time until James broke away to begin her career as a solo performer.
A look back at Etta James’ journey to fame
“Good Rockin’ Daddy” is one of the first hits to mark James’ shift to her solo career. Shortly after, during the 1960s, the artist began creating and performing duets with Harvey Fuqua, who was James’ boyfriend at the time. “At Last,” “Trust in Me,” and “All I Could Do Was Cry” are just a few of the popular songs the pair are well-known for. James’ compelling ballads were definitely a hit, but, unfortunately, the singer faced other struggles. According to Biography, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she battled with drug addiction. Despite these obstacles, James never stopped making music. During these times James produced hits such as “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” “In The Basement,” and “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Much later down the line, “I’d Rather Go Blind” ended up causing a bit of controversy between James and Beyoncé.
Etta James once briefly had beef with Beyoncé
James’ career was a very lengthy and successful one. The star was nominated for Grammys and continued to passionately produce music and albums well into her 70s. James’ successes, reputation, and music speak volumes, and that is how Beyoncé ended up being cast to play James in Cadillac Records. The film captured the influential impact of musicians such as James.
Overall, James seemed to support the movie, but there was some noticeable tension on James’ end when she learned that Beyoncé performed her song “At Last” at Barack Obama’s inaugural ball. According to Today, James had shared, “I can’t stand Beyoncé, she had no business up there singing … my song that I’ve been singing forever.” However, later, the singer stated that her comment was only intended to be a joke.
How did Etta James die?
Unfortunately, James faced quite a few medical problems. James eventually quit her drug habit. In an interview with NPR, the musician explained, “I had given it up many a time. You know, I had kicked — I’d kicked my habits many a time. But when I went in 1974, I gave heroin up. I was on methadone for maybe three or four years before that. So I had a couple of things to give up.” Through a lifestyle change, the star began losing weight as a result. In 2003, she lost more than 200 pounds after undergoing gastric bypass surgery. The surgery greatly helped the star perform and create music, but, just a few years later, she became very ill. Around 2010 it came to light that James was being treated for leukemia and suffering from dementia. James released The Dreamer which would end up being the star’s last album in 2011. James was being treated at home in Riverside for her rapidly declining health when she sadly passed away in 2012.