b. Jamesetta Hawkins, 25th January 1938, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
d. 20th January 2012, Riverside, California, U.S.A.
Etta James is a singer, cited by many younger artists presently, as one of their major influences as a singer and a performer.
Etta was born and brought up in Los Angeles in 1938, and by the age of 5, a young Etta was receiving vocal coaching at the local St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
Her tutor was James Earle Hines, the musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir.
dorothy hawkins and a young etta / james earle hines
Her mother was Dorothy Hawkins, who was 14 years old at the time of Etta's birth. Her father is unknown, however, he was allegedly to have been the pool player Rudolf 'Minnesota Fats' Wanderone.
When she was 12 years old Etta formed a doo-wop singing group, called the Creolettes, with two other female singers.
The group then met met bandleader Johnny Otis, who recorded the group, without their parents permission.
the wallflower b/w i'm a fool - 1955
They had formed another Doo Wop group called Etta James and the Peaches, and charted on the R&B charts in 1955 with the song 'The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)' b/w 'Hold Me, Squeeze Me' for the Modern imprint.
The group followed up the initial release with further 45's including, 'Hey Henry' b/w 'Be Mine', and 'Good Rockin' Daddy' b/w 'Crazy Feeling'.
After 5 single releases under the first group name, Etta recorded on Modern under her solo name 'Etta "Miss Peaches" James'.
my heart cries b/w if i can't have you - 1960 / spoonful b/w it's a crying shame - 1960
Etta recorded for Modern until 1957, whereupon she signed with Kent Records, recording under her own name, and also duetting on one single ('I Hope You're Satisfied' b/w 'If It Ain't One Thing' in 1959) with Harvey Fuqua, under the name of Betty and Dupree.
She also recorded two further singles with Harvey, this time for the Chess Records label.
miss etta james - 1961 / at last! - 1961 / the second time around - 1961 / twist with etta james - 1962
In 1960, Etta signed a recording contract with Chess Records, and released two seminal albums, 'At Last!' and 'The Second Time Around'.
Chess began backing Etta on her recording sessions with violins and a large string section.
etta james - 1962 / etta james sings for lovers - 1962 / etta james top ten - 1963 / rocks the house - 1964
In 1962, Etta charted with 'Something's Got a Hold on Me' (which peaked at number 4 on the R&B chart), 'Stop the Wedding' (reaching number 6 In 1963), after which Etta released her first live album, 'Etta James Rocks the House', recorded at the New Era Club in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1963 she released her third album, 'Etta James Top Ten', and charted with 'Loving You More Each Day' in 1964, followed by 'Baby What You Want Me to Do', which was also a hit.
The Sixties proved to be a troubled period for Etta, who suffered from an addiction to heroin (seeking treatment at Los Angeles' Tarzana Psychiatric Hospital), however, she continued to record and release albums and singles for the Argo and Cadet imprints.
queen of soul - 1965 / call my name - 1967 / tell mama - 1968 / etta james sings funk - 1970
In 1967, Etta charted with her evergreen song 'Tell Mama', which reached the R&B Top 10 and number 23 on the Hot 100.
A parent album followed, recorded at the Fame studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
The album featured a cover of Otis Redding's song, 'Security' which peaked at number 11 on the R&B chart.
losers weepers - 1971 / etta james - 1973 / come a little closer - 1974 / etta is betta than evah - 1977
Into the Seventies Etta still charted, with songs such as 'Loser Weepers' (in 1971), and 'I Found a Love' in 1972.
Etta, finally, overcame her addiction to heroin around 1974, and rebuilt her career.
She continued to record for Chess (despite the death of Leonard Chess), until 1978, and moved into recording more Rock based material.
deep in the night - 1978 / changes - 1980 / etta, red, hot and live - 1982 / the heart and soul of etta james - 1982
Her last two albums for Chess in 1977/ 1978 were, 'Etta Is Betta Than Evah' and 'Deep in the Night'.
She toured with The Rolling Stones during this period, and also played at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
In 1978, she recorded with Tony Orlando for the Elektra Records release 'Don't Let Go' b/w 'Bring It On Home To Me'.
In 1988, the drug nightmare came to the fore again and Etta entered the Betty Ford Center, in Palm Springs, California, for treatment.
seven year itch - 1989 / stickin' to my guns - 2002 / let's roll - 2003 / blues in the bone - 2004
She continued to open for the Rolling Stones in the mid 80's, before releasing her first album ('The Seven Year Itch' for the Island Records imprint) for seven years in 1989.
A follow up album was released the same year entitled, 'Stickin' to My Guns', which saw Etta record again at the Muscle Shoals recording studio.
Also in 1989 Etta collaborated with the rap artist Def Jef for the song 'Droppin Rhymes on Drums'.
In 1992, 'The Right Time' was released on Elektra Records, an album that saw Etta working with the late Jerry Wexler.
The following year, Etta released the album 'Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday', which set in motion a change in Etta's musical direction in much more of a Jazz mode.
In 1995, she published her autobiography co-authored with David Ritz entitled, 'A Rage to Survive'.
Also that year, Etta released a Soul-orientated studio album, 'Time After Time', also produced with Jerry Wexler.
In 1998, she released a Christmas album entitled, 'Etta James Christmas', on Private Music.
One of Etta's songs (a Muddy Waters composition) 'I Just Wanna Make Love to You', became a surprise hit, following it's use in some television commercials for Coca-Cola and for John Smith's beer.
The track became a Top 10 U.K. hit in 1996.
In the new millennium, Etta continued to record albums, including 'Matriarch of the Blues' and Blue Gardenia' in 2003, 'Burnin' Down the House: Live at the House of Blues' and 'Let's Roll' in 2005 (which was to be her final album for the Private Music imprint).
In 2008, Etta was portrayed by R&B singer and actress Beyoncé Knowles in the film 'Cadillac Records'.
Etta was hospitalized in January 2010 to receive treatment for an infection caused by MRSA.
A year earlier, she was reported to have been fighting Alzheimer's disease.
Her health continued to trouble her, and in January 2011 she was diagnosed with leukaemia, later followed in May of that year with a urinary tract infection along with the blood infection sepsis.
all the way - 2006 / the dreamer - 2011
Despite these setbacks, Etta recorded and released her final album (as she described the release) 'The Dreamer' for the Verve Forcast label.
Rolling Stone ranked Etta James at number twenty-two on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
During Her career she won six Grammys and seventeen Blues Music Awards.
She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008.
Etta James passed away in hospital in Riverside, California in January 2012, 5 days before her 74th birthday.
Miss Etta James (Crown Records 1961)
At Last! (Argo Records 1961)
Second Time Around (Argo Records 1961)
Twist With Etta James (Crown Records 1962)
Etta James (Argo Records 1962)
Etta James Sings For Lovers (Argo Records 1962)
Etta James Top Ten (Argo Records 1963)
Etta James Rocks The House (Argo Records 1964)
The Queen Of Soul (Argo Records 1965)
Call My Name (Cadet Records 1967)
Tell Mama (Cadet Records 1968)
Etta James Sings Funk (Cadet Records 1970)
Losers Weepers (Cadet Records 1971)
Etta James (Chess Records 1973)
Come A Little Closer (Chess Records 1974)
Etta Is Betta Than Evah! (Chess Records 1977)
Deep In The Night (Warners Records 1978)
Changes (MCA Records 1980)
Red, Hot And Live (MCA Records 1982)
The Heart And Soul Of (MCA Records 1982)
with Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson:
Blues In The Night: The Early Show (Fantasy Records 1986)
Blues In The Night: The Late Show (Fantasy Records 1986)
Seven Year Itch (Island Records 1989)
Stickin' To My Guns (Island Records 1990)
Something's Gotta Hold On Me (Etta James Vol. 2) (Roots Records 1992)
The Right Time (Elektra Records 1992)
Mystery Lady: Songs Of Billie Holiday (Private Music Records 1994)
Love's Been Rough On Me (Private Music Records 1997)
Matriarch Of The Blues (Private Music Records 2000)
Blue Gardenia (Private Music Records 2001)
Live And Ready (Classic World Productions 2002)
Burnin' Down The House: Live At The House Of Blues (Private Music Records 2002)
Let's Roll (Private Music Records 2003)
Live In New York (Acrobat Records 2003)
All The Way (RCA Victor Records 2006)
The Dreamer (Verve Forecast Records 2011)