Etta James is a truly legendary American singer. Her career spans over five decades, dozens of albums, four Grammy Awards and her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Her vocal styles have changed over the years. Originally, she was positioned as a doo-wop singer. This evolved in to jazz and then finally her gravelly voice was best suited to blues and soul.
In recent years, she has been seen as crossing the divide between R&B and Rock-n-Roll. Her voice and talent have been documented as an inspiration for Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, Janis Joplin and the Motown diva, Diana Ross.
Even with a prolific catalogue of acclaimed records, it’s only been in the last decade that she has received mainstream industry recognition. James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and she was awarded four Grammies in 1995, 2003, 2004 and 2005.
James had her first #1 single in 1955 with “The Wallflower” but she is more known for her crossover breakthrough in the 60s when she released “At Last”, “Trust In Me” “Pushover” and “Something’s Got a Hold On Me”, all top ten hits.
In the mid-60s, James began an epic battle with heroin that, according to her autobiography, would eventually last well into her 50s. But she continued to belt out big hits and remained a concert attraction.
Her career went into a standstill until the late 80s and 90s. She collaborated with Def Jam rapper, Delicious Vinyl. James was now exposed to a younger generation through the popular fusion of hip hop and jazz as well as the song “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” featured on a Coca-Cola TV commercial.
The 2000s were a big decade for James. In 2001, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and also was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. She shed over 200 pounds. Rolling Stone named her #64 of the Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2006, she added her distinctive vocals to an album of covers featuring songs from Prince, John Lennon, Simply Red and Marvin Gaye. She participated in a tribute album to another jazz great, Ella Fitzgerald. And pop sensation, Beyoncè Knowles, played a younger version of James in the 2008 movie called Cadillac Records.
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