Etta James

Etta James

Jazz and blues performer
Date of Birth: 25.01.1938
Country: USA

  1. Ella James Biography
  2. Early Life and Career
  3. Discovery and Solo Career
  4. Success and Challenges
  5. Continued Success and Personal Struggles
  6. Later Years and Legacy

Ella James Biography

Etta James was an American jazz and blues singer who was considered one of the national treasures on the American music scene. Known for her powerful and unique voice, she made a mark in various genres including soul, pop, jazz, blues, rock, and gospel. Her distinctive style influenced many artists such as Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, and Gladys Knight.

Early Life and Career

Etta James, born Jamesetta Hawkins, showed her talent for singing at a young age. At the age of five, she was already singing solos in the choir of a Los Angeles Baptist church. Her gospel performances, accompanied by the choir, were even broadcasted on local radio. She started taking music and vocal lessons under the guidance of Professor James Earle Hines. In 1950, at the age of 12, she formed a vocal group with two other young enthusiasts and began performing in school and city concerts.

Discovery and Solo Career

Etta James caught the attention of Johnny Otis, a well-known figure in the American music industry, during one of their performances. He was impressed by their original song, a response to Hank Ballard's "Work with Me Annie". In 1955, at the age of 14, Etta James, now known as Etta James, recorded her first solo single "Roll with Me Henry" with Johnny Otis' backing group, featuring vocalist Richard Berry. The song caused controversy due to its explicit lyrics and had to be renamed as "Dance with Me Henry". The single became a hit and topped the R&B chart in 1955.

Success and Challenges

Etta James started her career as the lead vocalist of the trio Peaches, but she soon had to continue her journey as a solo artist. Although she had support from saxophonist Maxwell Davis, she faced many challenges in her path to success. She remained under the Modern Records label until the late 1950s, releasing several singles. However, it was not until she signed with Argo, a subsidiary of Chess Records, in 1960 that her career took off. Leonard Chess, the head of the label, recognized her potential as a talented performer of classic ballads. Her debut album "At Last!" in 1961, featuring hits such as "At Last," "Don't Cry, Baby," and "Trust in Me," received critical acclaim and commercial success.

Continued Success and Personal Struggles

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Etta James continued to release successful albums and singles, establishing herself as one of the leading figures in soul and blues music. However, she faced personal struggles during this period, including battles with drug addiction. Her career suffered, and she struggled to maintain stability. It wasn't until the late 1980s, when she signed with Island Records, that she made a comeback with albums like "Seven Year Itch" (1988) and "Sticking to My Guns" (1990). She also explored her love for jazz, releasing the album "Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday" (1994), which earned her a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal.

Later Years and Legacy

In her later years, Etta James continued to release diverse albums, encompassing blues, jazz, and even Christmas songs. She remained a prominent figure in the music industry, with her releases consistently charting in the top five of the blues chart. Her albums "Let's Roll" (2003) and "Blues to the Bone" (2004) received critical acclaim and won her additional Grammy Awards. Despite her age, Etta James maintained her sense of humor and performed energetically on stage, often accompanied by her sons Donto and Sametto James.

Etta James's contributions to music earned her a place in the Blues Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She remains a national treasure and an influential figure in the world of jazz and blues.