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RIP Etta James: A Dynamic Voice And An R&B Legend

Etta James, whose fiery voice helped influences generations of R&B singers, has died at the age of 73, after a long bout with leukemia. James, known best for her ballad "At Last", had been ill for sometime, and had went home to be with family just a few weeks ago around the holidays.

According to our sister the LA Weekly, the Los Angeles native and longtime resident passed away at Riverside Community Hospital, a medical center, near her most recent residence in Riverside, where she had been receiving 24/7 in-home care.

California-native James began her hit-making career on Chess Records, releasing At Last in 1960, but before that she found some success with the Creolettes, coming under the wing of musical impresario Johnny Otis along the way. Otis himself passed away this week at the age of 90.

Legions of female voices have been influenced by James, real name Jamesetta Hawkins, from the most recent chart-toppers Adele and Amy Winehouse, all the way back to Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner, and even Janis Joplin. But James wasn't just rhythm and blues, she could also rock. Her stunning "I'd Rather Go Blind" was covered by Rod Stewart on Never A Dull Moment.

James' "At Last" got a huge boost in early 2009, when the newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama and his First Lady, Michelle Obama, danced at the Inauguration Ball to a live version by Beyonce Knowles. In 2008, Knowles herself portrayed James in the film Cadillac Records, starring Adrien Brody as Chess label head Leonard Chess. Hers was a warts and all portrait of the singer at her most volatile in the '60s, through drug addiction and other troubles.

James' last few studio efforts had been marked with some oddball covers, including "Welcome To The Jungle" originally by Guns 'N Roses, on 2011's The Dreamer, and Prince's "Purple Rain" on 2006's All The Way.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty