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A Tribute to Etta James

Updated on September 15, 2012

Etta James

A Musical Legend - Etta James
A Musical Legend - Etta James | Source

The Passing of Etta James

Not many musicians could inspire me to write a tribute, but Etta James just happens to be one of the few. Her songs, especially the most well known "At Last", can send chills up and down my arms in a matter of seconds whenever I hear her voice. As you can imagine, I was saddened to learn of her passing at the age of 73 and felt the need to highlight the life of Etta James and how her music has affected me and so many others.

That voice - what can I say - the voice of Etta James is one of a kind. Every time I hear someone else attempt to cover the song "At Last", I always think to myself "Oh, you better do it justice!" Some were amazing and gave me those same chills, while some I wish never tried the song at all. The low and sultry voice of Etta James made her music stand out from the crowd and made you longing to hear more. It is this voice and style of singing that I will miss the most, but I am sure it will be a source of inspiration for musicians for years to come.

"At Last" Video

"All I Could Do was Cry" Video

Etta James Movie

The Life of Etta James

How much do you know about the life of the legendary Etta James? You would be surprised to learn that her mother was only 14 years old when she gave birth to a baby girl named Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles, California. She started singing gospel in her church at the young age of 5 years old and wowed everyone with her amazing stage presence and inspirational vocals.

Etta James finally got her big break in 1960 when she signed a record deal with Chess Records in Chicago. She went on to record a long line of hits such as "Trust in Me", "Something's Got a Hold on Me", "Sunday Kind of Love", "All I Could Do was Cry", "Tell Mama", and her most famous single "At Last". This kind of music earned her six grammy awards including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2003. In addition to her many awards, she was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001. You can also see her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame she received in 2003.

Throughout her career, Etta James suffered through several battles of addiction to both heroin and painkillers. In and out of rehab, she was often deemed one of the first bad girls in the music industry. The 2008 movie "Cadillac Records" starring Beyonce Knowles in the role of Etta James portrays the highs and lows of her recording career and highlights the many struggles she battled throughout her life.

"Sunday Kind of Love" Video

The Legacy of Etta James

Without Etta James, would there be a Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, or Adele? I don't think so. Her style of singing, an inspiring mix of rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock and roll, have been a major influence on several of today's singing sensations. All of the above musicians have given credit to the amazing Etta James for the influence she had on their singing career.

Above all, I think Etta James' career should be one that is admired. Throughout all her struggles, Etta managed to overcome some big obstacles and remain a force to be reckoned with for over 50 years. She continued to record music well into her seventies recording and releasing her final album in November 2011 called "The Dreamer".

While recording her final album, she was also facing some pretty big health issues including dementia, kidney issues, and the biggest one of all - leukemia. None of these health issues kept her from doing what she loved and that was making beautiful music. I find this to be an extraordinary accomplishment and an amazing testament to how committed she was to her music.

Favorite Song

What is your favorite song by Etta James?

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RIP Etta James

To conclude this tribute, I just want to say thank you Etta James. You have blessed our lives with over 50 years of unforgettable music with your sultry and soulful vocals. Though she has past on, her music will live on forever. You will continue to hear "At Last" as the first wedding dance, the last song played at a Valentine's Day celebration, or that brave person trying it out on karaoke night at the local bar. And every time I hear it, I will smile and get chills for one of my all time favorite singers - the amazing and inspiring - Etta James. May you rest in peace and sing with the angels.

I hope you have enjoyed this tribute to Etta James. If you are not familiar with her music, please check out a few of the videos I have attached for your listening pleasure. Has Etta James' music had an effect on your life? Have you been a lifetime fan or just recently interested in her life since the news of her death? I would love to hear your comments in the provided section below.


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    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Love that song! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your favorite with us!

    • profile image

      Daja2cute! 6 years ago

      My favorite song by Ms Etta is "I'd rather go blind"! love you R.I.P baby!

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much missolive! It is so hard to pick a favorite - actually it was hard for me to narrow the song/video selection down to four :) Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 6 years ago from Texas

      what a wonderful tribute to a fine singer. I feel so nostalgic now!

      I don't think I could pick just one favorite song.

      Thank you for sharing and for taking the time to provide this information.

      voted up!

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      I absolutely agree puter_dr! How I wish I could say I saw her perform live - it must have been amazing! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much Ghaelach! Hope you got the chance to hear her on You Tube. The passion in her voice when she sings is just amazing. Appreciate you stopping by and leaving your comments!

    • puter_dr profile image

      Mike Bouska 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      I saw her at the Monterrey Jazz Festival in the 70's. A great singer is gone.

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 6 years ago

      Morning Alissa.

      Beautiful hub and a lovely tribute to a wonderful singer.

      I could only open the first video (not allowed in Germany) so I'll have to go into You Tube and try again.

      As I closed my eyes she reminded me of many of the black American soul singers.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Take care Alissa and have a lovely weekend.

      LOL Ghaelach

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks arusho! She did have some blonde hair back in the day. I have always loved her music but never realized the struggles she went through in her life and career until I watched the movie. Her story is really fascinating to me. Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much chelseacharleston! Happy to hear you liked it. Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • arusho profile image

      arusho 6 years ago from University Place, Wa.

      Beautiful tribute, I don't know much about Etta, thanks for enlightening me. Must have been the rage to dye hair blonde?

    • chelseacharleston profile image

      chelseacharleston 6 years ago

      Lovely tribute :)