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Born: January 25, 1938
Few R&B singers have endured tragic travails on the monumental level that Etta James has and remain on earth to talk about it. The lady's no shrinking violet; her autobiography, -Rage to Survive, describes her past (including numerous drug addictions) in sordid detail.etta james beyonce etta james fatyoung etta james etta james 1950etta james son.

But her personal problems have seldom affected her singing. James has hung in there from the age of R&B and doo wop in the mid-'50s through soul's late-'60s heyday and right up into the '90s and 2000s (where her 1994 disc Mystery Lady paid loving jazz-based tribute to one of her idols, Billie Holiday). Etta James' voice has deepened over the years, coarsened more than a little, but still conveys remarkable passion and pain.

Jamesetta Hawkins was a child gospel prodigy, singing in her Los Angeles Baptist church choir (and over the radio) when she was only five years old under the tutelage of Professor James Earle Hines. She moved to San Francisco in 1950, soon teaming with two other girls to form a singing group. When she was 14, bandleader Johnny Otis gave the trio an audition. He particularly dug their answer song to Hank Ballard & the Midnighters' "Work With Me Annie."

Against her mother's wishes, the young singer embarked for L.A. to record "Roll With Me Henry" with the Otis band and vocalist Richard Berry in 1954 for Modern Records. Otis inverted her first name to devise her stage handle and dubbed her vocal group the Peaches (also Etta's nickname). "Roll With Me Henry," renamed "The Wallflower" when some radio programmers objected to the original title's connotations, topped the R&B charts in 1955.

The Peaches dropped from the tree shortly thereafter, but Etta James kept on singing for Modern throughout much of the decade (often under the supervision of saxist Maxwell Davis). "Good Rockin' Daddy" also did quite well for her later in 1955, but deserving follow-ups such as "W-O-M-A-N" and "Tough Lover" (the latter a torrid rocker cut in New Orleans with Lee Allen on sax) failed to catch on.

James landed at Chicago's Chess Records in 1960, signing with their Argo subsidiary. Immediately, her recording career kicked into high gear; not only did a pair of duets with her then-boyfriend (Moonglows lead singer Harvey Fuqua) chart, her own sides (beginning with the tortured ballad "All I Could Do Was Cry") chased each other up the R&B lists as well. Leonard Chess viewed James as a classy ballad singer with pop crossover potential, backing her with lush violin orchestrations for 1961's luscious "At Last" and "Trust in Me." But James' rougher side wasn't forsaken -- the gospel-charged "Something's Got a Hold on Me" in 1962, a kinetic 1963 live LP (Etta James Rocks the House) cut at Nashville's New Era Club, and a blues-soaked 1966 duet with childhood pal Sugar Pie De Santo, "In the Basement," ensured that.

Although Chess hosted its own killer house band, James traveled to Rick Hall's Fame studios in Muscle Shoals in 1967 and emerged with one of her all-time classics. "Tell Mama" was a searing slice of upbeat Southern soul that contrasted markedly with another standout from the same sessions, the spine-chilling ballad "I'd Rather Go Blind." Despite the death of Leonard Chess, Etta James remained at the label into 1975, experimenting toward the end with a more rock-based approach.

There were some mighty lean years, both personally and professionally, for Miss Peaches. But she got back on track recording-wise in 1988 with a set for Island, Seven Year Itch, that reaffirmed her Southern soul mastery. Her following albums have been a varied lot -- 1990's Sticking to My Guns was contemporary in the extreme; 1992's Jerry Wexler-produced The Right Time, for Elektra, was slickly soulful, and her most other '90s outings have explored jazz directions. In 1998, she also issued a holiday album, Etta James Christmas. She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and in 2003 received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. That year also saw the release of her Let's Roll album, followed in 2004 by a CD of new blues performances, Blues to the Bone, both on RCA Records. James then shifted gears and released an album of pop standards, All the Way, on RCA in 2006.

In concert, Etta James is a sassy, no-holds-barred performer whose suggestive stage antics sometimes border on the obscene. She's paid her dues many times over as an R&B and soul pioneer; long may she continue to shock the uninitiated. Bill Dahl, Rovi

Singer. Born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles. As a child, Etta was a gospel prodigy, singing in her church choir and on the radio at the age of five. When she turned twelve, she moved north to San Francisco where she formed a trio and was soon working for bandleader Johnny Otis.

In 1954, she moved to Los Angeles to record "The Wallflower" (a tamer title for the then-risqué "Roll with Me Henry") with the Otis band. It was that year that the young singer became Etta James (an inverted version of her first name) and her vocal group was dubbed The Peaches (also Etta's nickname). Soon after, James launched her solo career with such hits as "Good Rockin' Daddy" in 1955.

After signing with Chicago's Chess Records in 1960, James' career began to soar. Chart toppers included duets with then-boyfriend Harvey Fuqua, the heart-breaking ballad "All I Could Do Was Cry," "At Last" and "Trust in Me." But James' talents weren't reserved for powerful ballads. She knew how to rock a house, and did so with such gospel-charged tunes as "Something's Got a Hold On Me" in 1962 and "In The Basement" in 1966. James continued to work with Chess throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Sadly, heroin addiction affected both her personal and professional life, but in 1967 Chess took her to the Fame studios to record with the Muscle Shoals house band. The collaboration resulted in the triumphant Tell Mama album.

Despite her continued drug problems, she earned a Grammy nomination for her 1973 album Etta James. After completing her contract with Chess in 1977, James signed on with Warner Brothers Records. A renewed public profile followed her appearance at the opening ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Subsequent albums, including Deep In The Night and Seven Year Itch received critical acclaim. She was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, prior to her signing a new recording contract with Private Records.

With suggestive stage antics and a sassy attitude, James continued to perform and record well into the 1990s. Always soulful, her extraordinary voice has been showcased to great effect on her recent Private releases, including Blue Gardenia, which rose to the top of the Billboard jazz chart. In 2003, James underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds. The dramatic weight loss had an impact on her voice, as she told Ebony magazine that year. "I can sing lower, higher and louder," James explained.

That same year, Etta James released Let's Roll, which won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Her sons, Donto and Sametto James served as producers on the recording along with Josh Sklair. This team regrouped for her next effort, Blues to the Bone (2004), which brought James her third Grammy Award this time in the Best Traditional Blues Album category.

In 2006, James released the album All the Way, which featured cover versions of songs by Prince, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown. She participated in a tribute album the following year for jazz great Ella Fitzgerald called We Love Ella.

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