Welcome to my Music Diary – today for the 25th January!
Etta James (25th January 1938 – 20th January 2012)
Happy birthday to Jamesetta Hawkins aka Etta James, who was born on the 25th January 1938 in Los Angeles, Callifornia (USA)!
At the age of five years, Jamesetta received her first vocal training from James Earle Hines, musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir, at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Turned 14, she founded the girl group called „The Creolettes“ and shortly after that, the talented and young singer met musician Johnny Otis, who took her under his wings. Otis changed the band name into „The Peaches“ and Jamesetta into the stage name Etta James. In early 1955 the single „Dance with Me, Henry“ was released, which reached number one on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Tracks chart. Due to this success, The Peaches got an opening spot on Little Richard’s national tour.
After leaving the band, Etta was signed by the legendary label Chess Records. With male singer Harvey Fuqua she recorded the singles“If I Can’t Have You“ and „Spoonful„. With „All I Could Do Was Cry“ (1960), Etta had her first solo hit. In the same year her album debut „At Last!“ was released, which offered a varied choice of Jazz standards, Blues tunes, Doo-Wop elements and Rhythm & Blues. Especially James‘ interpretations of the title song, „I Just Want to Make Love to You“ and „A Sunday Kind of Love“ became classics. In 1961 her second LP „The Second Time Around“ featuring the two hits „Fool That I Am“ and „Don’t Cry Baby“. Etta James expanded her style with more Gospel elements – this can be heard on the two recordings „Something’s Got a Hold on Me“ and „Stop the Wedding“. In 1967, the LP „Tell Mama“ hit the stores. The title track and also the tracks „Security“ and „I’d Rather Go Blind“ became further hits.
In the seventies, Etta James continued recording and more albums were released, although she had no big hits anymore. In 1978 she was the opening act for The Rolling Stones and also performed at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Then she left Chess Records, stopped working and began struggeling with drug addiction and alcoholism. In 1989 Etta signed with Island Records and her albums „Seven Year Itch“ and „Stickin‘ to My Guns“ were released. Three years later, the LP „The Right Time“ (on Elektra Records) followed and in 1992 Etta James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With her tribute album to Billie Holiday called „Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday“ (1993), Etta James won her first Grammy Award in the category „Best Jazz Vocal Performance“ and ten years later, she was honoured with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. And she picked her next Grammy (in the category „Best Contemporary Blues Album„) for „Let’s Roll“ in 2005.
Etta became seriously sick and suffered from dementia and leukemia. In November 2011 her last album „The Dreamer“ was released. On the 20th January 2012, Etta James died at the Riverside Communiy Hospital in Riverside (California) – just five days before her 74th birthday and only three days after the passing of Johnny Otis, who discovered her in the fifties.
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