Jamesetta Hawkins (January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012), known professionally as Etta James, was an American singer who performed in various genres, including blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, jazz and gospel.
In 1952, at the age of 14, James formed a girl doo-wop trio called the Creolettes, who were renamed the Peaches after bandleader Johnny Otis discovered them. The group’s song “Roll with Me Henry” (cowritten by James and set to the music of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ suggestive hit “Work with Me, Annie”) was an instant success in 1954, but it was retitled “The Wallflower” because of its perceived sexual connotation; the lyrics and title were changed to “Dance with Me, Henry” for singer Georgia Gibbs’s 1955 rendition, which reached number one on the charts. After signing (1960) with Chess Records, James became its first major female star, with such songs as “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “Trust in Me,” “At Last,” and “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.”
Etta faced a number of personal problems, including heroin addiction, severe physical abuse, and incarceration, before making a musical comeback in the late 1980s with the album Seven Year Itch.
James’s powerful, deep, earthy voice bridged the gap between rhythm and blues and rock and roll. She won six Grammy Awards and 17 Blues Music Awards. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001. Rolling Stone magazine ranked James number 22 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time; she was also ranked number 62 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Billboard’s 2015 list of The 35 Greatest R&B Artists Of All Time includes James, whose “gutsy, take-no-prisoner vocals colorfully interpreted everything from blues and R&B/soul to rock n’roll, jazz and gospel“.
Discography: 29 studio albums from 1960 – 2011
Two things to share:
When the “Rolling Stones” went on their U.S. tour in 1979, they picked Etta James to be their opening act.
James sang at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games. It was an appearance that renewed her public profile after being away from the music scene.