Etta James

Etta James

Jamesetta Hawkins, better known by her stage name Etta James (1938-2012), was a famous American singer, guitarist and pianist, who achieved stardom thanks to her wonderful and powerful voice.

Despite having had a complicated childhood and certain addictions throughout her life, that was not an impediment to be considered one of the best jazz, soul and R&B singers.

Etta James never knew her father, her mother was a prostitute and, over many years, she became addicted to heroin. However, she managed to overcome these adversities to become one of the queens of music and blues.


Etta James was born on January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles. Her childhood was marked by the absence of her father, as she never managed to know who he was. Her beginnings in music were focused on the gospel genre, thanks to the church she frequently visited. At only 5 years old, she had already managed to appear in several radio programs of that time.

As a teenager, he made the decision to move to the city of San Francisco. Once there, she formed a band with two of her closest friends and began working for Johnny Otis, who, at that time, was at the height of his career as a bandleader.

By 1954, her mother ordered her to return to Los Angeles. There, he was presented with the opportunity to record one of his greatest hits "Roll With Me Henry". Subsequently, due to several negative comments given the references to the original name, the name of this hit was changed to "The Wallflower".

At that point, the musical group of which Etta was part, was renamed "The Peaches", being this also a nickname that the singer had before being recognized as Etta James. In addition, it should be noted that they belonged to the Modern Records label, with which the singer continued to work even after the dissolution of the band.

In 1960, she decided to work with Chicago's Chess Records, singing for the subsidiary Argo. Very quickly her career was propelled to the top. At that time, she not only did some duets with her then boyfriend (Harvey Fuqua, the lead singer of the Moonglows), but also individually recorded songs such as "All I Could Do Was Cry", reaching the top of the R&B charts.

On December 23, 2011, she was admitted to Riverside Community Hospital in California with terminal leukemia. On January 20, 2012, at the age of 73, the six-time Grammy Award-winning singer passed away.


Etta James had the vocal range of an alto. Throughout her career, her musical style changed several times. In her early days, in the mid-1950s, Etta James marketed herself as an R&B and doo-wop singer.

However, after signing with Chess Records in 1960, she managed to break through as a traditional pop singer, becoming a reference in the jazz and pop world with her album "At Last!". Over the years, her voice became deeper and rougher, changing her musical style in the last years of her career to soul and jazz.

Nevertheless, Etta James was considered one of the most overlooked blues and R&B singers in the history of American music. It was not until the 1990s that she finally began to win major awards, such as the Grammys and Blues Foundation, thus achieving widespread national and worldwide recognition.

In recent years, his music was able to influence a wide variety of musicians, such as Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Christina Aguilera, Shemekia Copelan, Hayley Williams and Bonnie Raitt. As well as artists from other continents such as The Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse, Elkie Brooks and Rod Stewart.


Throughout her career, Etta James has collaborated with several famous jazz artists on several of her songs, such as the following: Paul Simon, Ralph MacDonald, Ron Carter, Zoot Simms, Teddy Wilson, Steve Gadd, Hugh McCracken, David Sanborn, Bob James and Harvey Fuqua, among others.


From 1960 to 2011, Etta James released 30 great albums, which are named:

¡At Last! (1960)

The Second Time Around (1961)

Etta James (1962)

Etta James Sings for Lovers (1962)

Etta James Top Ten (1963)

The Queen of Soul (1965)

Call My Name (1966)

Tell Mama (1968)

Etta James Sings Funk (1970)

Losers Weepers (1971)

Etta James (1973)

Come a Little Closer (1974)

¡Etta Is Betta Than Evvah! (1976)

Deep in the Night (1978)

Changes (1980)

Seven Year Itch (1989)

Stickin' to My Guns (1990)

The Right Time (1992)

Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday (1994)

Time After Time (1995)

These Foolish Things (1995)

Love's Been Rough on Me (1997)

Life, Love & the Blues (1998)

Heart of a Woman (1999)

Matriarch of the Blues (2000)

Blue Gardenia (2001)

Let's Roll (2003)

Blues to the Bone (2004)

All the Way (2006)

El soñador (2011)


All Etta James songs have been a reference in the jazz genre, but among the most listened to and famous are undoubtedly hits such as:

Something's Got A Hold On Me, At Last, I'd Rather Go Blind, A Sunday Kind of Love, I Just Want to Make Love to You, Stormy Weather, All I Could Do Was Cry, Do Right Woman y Do Right Man.

If you want to learn more about the great musical genre of jazz and discover top artists such as Etta James, we invite you to continue enjoying the best music at Jazz Images Records.

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