Blues legend Etta James dies at 73
Etta James, the feisty rhythm and blues singer whose raw, passionate vocals anchored many hits and made the yearning ballad At Last an enduring anthem for weddings, commercials and even US President Barack Obama, has died at 73.
James had been suffering from dementia and kidney problems, and was battling leukaemia.
In December 2011, her physician announced that her leukaemia was terminal, and asked for prayers for the singer. During her illness, her husband Artis Mills and her two sons fought bitterly over control of her $1m (¤773,000) estate, though a deal was later struck keeping Mills as the conservator and capping the singer's expenses at $350,000 (¤270,000).
James died at Riverside Community Hospital yesterday, with her husband and sons at her side, her manager Lupe De Leon said."It's a tremendous loss for her fans around the world," he said. "She'll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category."
Boldness was as much a trademark of James, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as her platinum-dyed mane.
She scored her first hit when she was just a teenager with the suggestive Roll With Me, Henry, which had to be changed to The Wallflower in order to get airplay. Over the years, she'd notch many more, carving a niche for herself with her husky, soulful voice and her sassy attitude, which permeated her songs.
But it was her jazz-inflected rendition of At Last that would come to define her and make her legendary. The song, which starts with sumptuous strings before James begins to sing, was a remake of a 1941 standard. James made it her own.
Over the decades, countless brides have used it as their song down the aisle, and it has been featured in car commercials and films like American Pie. But perhaps most famously, Obama and the First Lady danced to a version of At Last at his inauguration ball.