Blues singer Etta James remembered in Los Angeles

Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:19pm EST
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By Ryan Watson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hundreds of mourners gathered at a Los Angeles-area church on Saturday to remember rhythm-and-blues singer Etta James, saying she overcame great personal and professional hurdles to sing "the times that she lived."

During a two-hour service that featured performances by pop stars Stevie Wonder and Christina Aguilera, the Rev. Al Sharpton eulogized James as a woman who rose from a tough childhood and poured her pain into her music.

Aguilera performed a version of "At Last," James' show-stopping hit and best-known song.

James died at 73 at a Riverside, California, hospital on January 20 from complications of leukemia, prompting numerous tributes from artists and musicians who were influenced by her work, including Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin.

"People need to understand that when they hear the music Etta James sang, she sang the times that she lived," Sharpton told friends and family at Greater Bethany Church City of Refuge church in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena.

"She put our pain and our dreams and our love and our need for one another in her vocal chords, but the difference between her and other artists is somehow you felt she meant what she was saying."

James, who was born to a teenage single mother, won wide acclaim and three Grammys, but saw numerous ups-and-downs in her career and personal life. She struggled with obesity and heroin addiction, ran a hot-check scheme and had troubled relationships with men.

But, Sharpton said, James should be remembered for blazing a trail for the entertainers who followed her.   Continued...

<p>Reverend Al Sharpton delivers the eulogy at the funeral for singer Etta James, who died last week at age 73, at City of Refuge in Gardena, California, January 28, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn</p>