LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Three-time Grammy winner Singer Etta James, a pioneer of 1950s rhythm-and-blues and rock music known for her show-stopping hit “At Last,” died on Friday at the age of 73.
Following are some keys facts about James.
* James died on Friday, January 20., due to complications from leukemia, according to her longtime manager and friend Lupe De Leon. Her live-in doctor said in December she was terminally ill. She had been in failing health for a number of years and also suffered from diabetes, kidney problems and dementia.
* Her hit songs included “The Wallflower,” which originally was titled “Roll With Me Henry,” “At Last,” “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” “Tell Mama,” “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Stop the Wedding.”
* James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles January 25, 1938, to a 14-year-old girl in Los Angeles. Over the years, her mother mentioned several different men as her father, including Rudolph Wanderone, the legendary pool hustler best known as Minnesota Fats. James came to think of Wanderone as her father and sought him out at a Nashville, Tennessee, hotel in 1987. She was unable to confirm he was her father but told an interviewer, “When he passed, he sent me a beautiful golden watch that hung on his clothes that had his name on it. And he sent me a letter and told me that he wanted me to write a song about him and stuff.”
* James was an influence on performers such as Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross and Janis Joplin. She also toured as an opening act with the Rolling Stones and performed with the Grateful Dead.
* James fought a long battle with heroin addiction. In her autobiography, “Rage to Survive,” she wrote that at one point she and an accomplice stole the musical instruments of her own band and pawned them in order to buy drugs. After stints in rehabilitation programs, she broke the habit at age 50.
* James’ weight reached an estimated 400 pounds at one point and she often had to perform sitting down. She lost some 200 pounds after gastric bypass surgery about 10 years ago.
* James was survived by her husband, Artis Mills, two sons Donto and Sametto and four grandchildren.
Reporting By Bill Trott; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bob Tourtellotte