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Etta James honored with speeches, songs at service

Los Angeles County – Etta James was remembered at a service Saturday attended by hundreds of friends, relatives and fans as a woman who triumphed against all odds to break down cultural and musical barriers in a style that was unfailingly honest.

Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press Friends, fans and family line for a final view in the funeral of singer Etta James, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, at Greater Bethany Community Church City of Refuge in Gardena, Calif. James died last Friday at age 73 after battling leukemia and other ailments, including dementia. She was most famous for her classic "At Last," but over her decades-long career, she became revered for her passionate singing voice. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The Rev. Al Sharpton eulogized James in a rousing speech, describing her remarkable rise from poverty and pain to become a woman whose rendition of “At Last” became an enduring anthem.

Perhaps most famously, President Obama and the first lady shared their first inaugural ball dance to a version of the song sung by Beyonce. Sharpton on Saturday opened his remarks by reading a statement from the president.

“Etta will be remembered for her legendary voice and her contributions to our nation’s musical heritage,” Obama wrote.

The Grammy-winning singer died Jan. 20 after battling leukemia and other ailments. She had retreated from public life in recent years, but on Saturday her legacy was on display as mourners of all ages and races converged on the City of Refuge church in Gardena, south of downtown Los Angeles.

Among the stars performing tributes to James were Stevie Wonder and Christina Aguilera, who told the gathering that she has included “At Last” in every concert she has performed as a tribute to her musical inspiration.

Sharpton, who met James when he was an up-and-coming preacher, credited her with helping break down racial barriers through her music.

“She was able to get us on the same rhythms and humming the same ballads and understanding each other’s melodies way before we could even use the same hotels,” Sharpton said.

Throughout the service, a portrait of James as a woman who beat the odds in pursuit of her dreams repeatedly emerged.

“Etta is special to me and for me, because she represents the life, the triumphs, the tribulations of a lot of black women all over this world,” said Rep Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles.

James won four Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement honor, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

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Singing legend Etta James dies at 73

American Singer Etta James, born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 has died, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. She was 73.

She died from complications from leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons by her side, De Leon said.

She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C. James died at a hospital in Riverside, California. She would have turned 74 Wednesday.

Image Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

” This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world,” De Leon said. “She was a true original who could sing it all – her music defied category.

“I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always.”

Born to an unwed 14-year-old mother in Los Angeles in 1938, James began singing in church as a child, and by age twelve had moved to San Francisco, where she formed a doo-wop trio called the Creolettes. Returning to L.A. in 1954, she rechristened the group the Peaches, changed her own name to Etta James, and professionally recorded her first song,”The Wallflower”; a solo recording contract soon followed.

Her 18-year tenure at Chicago’s Chess Records — partly documented in the 2008 film Cadillac Records, in which Beyoncé famously played the singer — led to James’ most fertile period commercially, even as it coincided with her increasingly heavy use of heroin and alcohol.

It was at Chess that she released hits like “Trust In Me,” “Something’s Got a Hold On Me,” and the song that would become her signature, “At Last”  (though at the time, it peaked at #47 on the mainstream pop charts).

In 1978 — the same year she opened a number of tour dates for the Rolling Stones — she left Chess, but remained largely out of the public eye throughout the 1980s, aside from a high-profile appearance at the 1984 Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

The 1990s saw her rising again creatively;  she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1993 and recorded a run of albums in a more classic jazz and blues vein, including the 1994 tribute Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday. She made the news again in 2009 when she spoke out publicly against both Beyonce and President Obama, at whose inauguration the younger performer sang “At Last.”

James’ final album, The Dreamer, was released November 8, 2011. On Dec. 16, 2011, it was announced that her leukemia was terminal, and that she was suffering from dementia and Hepatitis C as well. She is survived Artis Mills, her husband of more than 40 years, and her two sons, Donto and Sametto.

How has Etta James music impacted your life? Please share your thoughts and condolences below.

EW contributed to this report.

Singer Etta James off respirator

Published by EOTM News Editor on January 2nd, 2012 - in Breaking News, Celebrity News, Music

According to CNN, Singer Etta James is off the respirator and breathing on her own, but remains in a Southern California hospital, her son said early Monday.

Getty Images

The “At Last” singer is battling the final stages of terminal leukemia and suffering from dementia.

James, 73, was hospitalized on December 21 at the request of her two court-appointed doctors, according to her son, Donto James.

“She’s all right. My brother and I would like to see her stay in the hospital a little longer until she gets more stable. Our main concern is for her to be taken care of right,” said Donto, who played drums in his mother’s Roots band for 15 years.

The singer is conscious, and spent New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop with her sons in her hospital room, James said.

Etta James on breathing machine

Published by EOTM News Editor on December 23rd, 2011 - in Breaking News, Celebrity News, Entertainment News

Singer Etta James, who is terminally ill with leukemia is being hospitalized in a California hospital and according to her manager, the Grammy award winner is on a breathing tube.

Getty Images

James, best known for the blues ballad “At Last,” was taken to the hospital near her home in Riverside, east of Los Angeles, earlier this week because she was struggling to breathe.

“They took her to the hospital. She was having trouble breathing, so they intubated her. She is on a breathing machine and is resting,” Lupe De-Leon, the singer’s manager for 30 years, told Reuters.

The singer has been in failing health for a number of years and suffers from leukemia, kidney disease and dementia but had previously been cared for at her Southern California home.

Her live-in doctor said last week that James was considered terminally ill, and that she communicates mostly with nods and simple words.

The three-time Grammy Award singer earlier battled obesity and was addicted to heroin for many years.

“It is really sad. She is like my sister,” De-Leon said on Friday.

James was a key figure in the early days of R&B music with hit songs like “The Wallflower” and “Good Rockin’ Daddy”. But it was her 1961 recording of “At Last” that put her on the map.

Reuters contributed to this report.


“At Last” singer Etta James is terminally ill

Published by EOTM News Editor on December 16th, 2011 - in Breaking News, Entertainment News, Music
Etta James performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festiva on April 26, 2009, in New Orleans.

(Credit: Getty )

(CBS/AP) Singer Etta James, whose health has been fading in recent years, is now terminally ill, and her live-in doctor is asking for prayers.

Dr. Elaine James, who isn’t related to the 73-year-old entertainer, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that the singer’s chronic leukemia was declared incurable two weeks ago.

The doctor has cared for Etta James at the singer’s Riverside, Calif., area home since March 2010. She’s now under 24-hour medical care.

She said the “At Last” singer’s communication consists mostly of “uh-huhs” and “no’s.

Elaine James says she’s spreading word of the singer’s ailments so people will pray for her. She says fans know Etta James has been sick “but not how sick.”

Court records in the singer’s probate case show she also suffers from dementia and kidney failure.

Elaine James made her comments outside a Riverside conservatorship hearing over the singer’s $1 million estate. The singer’s son, Donto James, wants a conservator rather than the singer’s husband, Artis Mills.

She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Etta James No. 62 on its 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.

Etta James has been active on the music scene in recent years. In 2009, she performed on “Dancing With the Stars” and sang at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Also that year, Etta James complained after Beyonce sang her 1961 classic, “At Last,” during President Barack Obama’s inauguration ball. She later said it was a joke.

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Celebrity Quote of the Day: Etta James

Published by EOTM News Editor on August 4th, 2011 - in Celebrity News, Celebrity Quote of the Day, Trending

My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I’d like to think I did that.
Etta James


Singer Etta James hospitalized

Published by EOTM News Editor on May 14th, 2011 - in Breaking News, Celebrity News

Blues legend Etta James was hospitalized in Riverside earlier this week with infections of the blood and the urinary tract, one of her sons said Friday.

Singer Etta James

“It was a really bad infection,” Sametto James said. “Right now she’s doing a lot better.”

The 73-year-old singer, who is also battling dementia and leukemia, was also hospitalized in January 2010 for sepsis and a UTI. She’s expected to stay hospitalized until her infections are cleared, Sametto told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

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