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Etta James, 1938-2012

Iconic R&B/jazz singer dies of leukemia in Los Angeles

Etta James

Etta James, the iconic R&B diva who rose to fame in the mid-’50s and remained active until late last year when it was announced that she had terminal leukemia, died this morning, January 20, at age 73 in Riverside, Calif. In addition to leukemia, James suffered from dementia and kidney failure. Ten years ago she underwent gastric bypass surgery to deal with a weight problem that had found her reaching 400 pounds.

James-whose hits included the R&B chart-topper “The Wallflower,” the raucous soul shouter “Tell Mama,” its equally popular B-side “I’d Rather Go Blind” (which actually never charted in Billboard), and the definitive reading of the ballad “At Last”-was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, as well as the Blues Hall of Fame. A six-time Grammy winner and recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, James’ passing fell three days after that of Johnny Otis, the musician and bandleader credited with giving James her start.

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