Etta James, the singer portrayed by Beyoncé in the film Cadillac Records, died today at Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside, California at the age of 73. The “At Last” singer endured an ongoing battle with chronic leukemia and reportedly also suffered from dementia and kidney failure.
Born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938, the singer formed her first doo wop group at the age of 14. By 22, she signed to Chess Records and had her first top 10 hit the same year with “All I Could Do Is Cry.” The following year she released her most notable hit, “At Last,” which only reached the top 50 on the pop charts but reached number 2 on the R&B charts.
Though James battled a heroine addiction for many years, she performed consistently and successfully for over four decades. She was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and received a star on theHollywood Walk Of Fame in 2003.
James leaves behind two sons, Donto and Sametto James, her husband of 42 years, Artis Mills, and a legacy of beautiful music. She would have celebrated her 74th birthday this coming Wednesday, January 25. May she rest in peace.