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Etta James - Biography
|last update : 20-01-2012 19:58|
|Etta James (real name Jamesetta Hawkins) was a US R&B/soul vocalist, b. January 25, 1938, died January 20, 2012, one of the most sustainable divas on the R&B scene with more than half a century as a performer and a long list of hits to her credit. She was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. James' contralto voice is both rough and tender, on the faster material not unlike blues shouters like Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor, but more soulful on the ballad side.
Singing with a female doo-wop trio, she was discovered as a teenager by Johnny Otis. As featured vocalist, just turned 17, she had her first R&B #1 hit with Johnny Otis' "The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)" in 1955. She recorded for Modern Records and Kent Records for the rest of the decade.
In 1960 she signed with the Chess label and became the labels top female star throughout the 60's and a regular R&B and pop charter with her signature song "At Last", "Sunday Kind Of Love" "Stop The Wedding" a.m.o. In 1967 she (as Aretha Franklin before her) went to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio to record the succesful and more soul styled album Tell Mama, introducing another R&B classic, "I'd Rather Go Blind". From 1965 to the mid 70's however she battled heroin addiction and her popularity declined. She recorded with Chess until 1976. Her Chess era career, addiction and relation to Leonard Chess is a sub-story portrayed in the 2008 movie Cadillac Records. The role as Etta James in the movie is played by Beyoncé Knowles who also recorded some of her songs for the soundtrack.
After years of decline and struggle in 1978 she recorded one of her alltime best album efforts, the Jerry Wexler produced Deep In The Night, but what could have been a strong comeback instead was the beginning of a decade of recording silence. Finally, in 1988 she went back to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio she so succesfully recorded in twenty years earlier and with Barry Beckett and the top studio sessionists made the album Seven Years Itch and from then on and until 2006 she has recorded frequent and solid albums.