Tributes stream in for Etta James

2012-01-21 14:50

The death of Etta James, the influential 1950s rhythm-and-blues singer best known for her show-stopping hit “At Last”, has prompted tributes from numerous musicians and artists.

Jones died from complications of leukemia in a California hospital surrounded by her family. She was 73.

Her death prompted tributes from stars including Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and legendary rock band The Doors.

James died in her home town of Riverside, California, east of Los Angeles, said her manager and friend of some 30 years, Lupe De Leon. She would have turned 74 on Wednesday.

“She passed away this morning (yesterday). She was with her husband and her sons,” said De Leon.

James was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago and had been in failing health for a number of years. Her live-in doctor said in December she was terminally ill with leukemia. James also suffered from diabetes, kidney problems and dementia and was hospitalised late in 2011 because she was struggling to breathe.

Carey, one of dozens of musicians paying tribute on Twitter yesterday, said, “Rest in peace to one of the world’s most influential singers Etta James, you will be missed.”

Beyonce, who was slammed by James in 2009 for singing “At Last” at the inaugural ball for US President Barack Obama, said yesterday she was fortunate to have met “such a queen”.

“Singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist. When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph,” Beyonce said on her official website.

Aretha Franklin called James “an American original”. “When Etta SUNG, you heard it!” Franklin said in a statement.

The Recording Academy, which gives out the Grammys, said James left behind a dynamic legacy. “She will forever be remembered for her timeless ballad At Last, and a powerful voice that will echo around the world for generations to come,” academy president Neil Portnow said in a statement.

Other tributes came from LeAnn Rimes, Pink, Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill, Chaka Khan, Simon LeBon of Duran Duran, hip-hop producer Russell Simmons and British blues-rock singer Steve Winwood. The Doors called James “one of the world’s legendary R&B icons”.

She is survived by her husband, Artis Mills, two sons Donto and Sametto who played in James’ backing band, and four grandchildren.

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