Sunday, January 29, 2012

Etta James (January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012)

Etta James born Jamesetta Hawkins she lost her battle with leukemia five days before her 74th birthday. Etta James mother Dorothy Hawkins had Etta when she was fourteen years old in Los Angeles California. Etta James never knew who her father was, but she thought he was Rudolf “Minnesota Fat” Wanderone the pool player. Etta James had a turbulent childhood; her mother was not in the picture so Etta lived with caregivers, Sarge and Mama Lu. When Etta was five years old Sarge would get drunk during his poker games and beat Etta into sing for him and his poker buddies. This was very traumatic for Etta James she always had a reluctance to sing on demand. Mama Lu died in 1950, so Etta’s mother took her to San Francisco she was 12 years old. While living in San Francisco she sang with doo-woop group the Creolettes. When Etta was 14 years old she met Johnny Otis who signed the group to Modern Records and changed the name of the group to the Peaches. The Peaches released “Dance with Me, Henry” which Etta co-authored. The song reached number one on the Hot Rhythm & Blues chart. This song gave the Peaches an opening spot on Little Richards national tour. When Etta left the Peaches she released “Good Rockin’ Daddy” which was an R&B hit. It is said by Bobby Murray aka “Taters” who toured with Etta for 20 years, that at age 16 Etta went steady with B.B King and Etta believed the B.B. King’s song “Sweet Sixteen” was about her. From 1960 through 1978 Etta James had a string of hits, “If I Can’t Have You”, “Spoonful”, “All I Could Do Was Cry”, “My Dearest Darling”, “The Fool That I Am’, “Don’t Cry Baby”, Something’s Got a Hold on Me”, “Pushover”, “ Tell Mama”, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, “Losers Weepers”, “I Found a Love” and her signature song “At Last”. The song “At Last” I my opinion should have been sung at the Presidential Inauguration ball by the one and only Etta James instead of Beyoncé. That was Etta’s song she was still alive she had a hard life and paid her paid her dues. Etta James musical style throughout her career was blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, gospel and jazz. I never had the pleasure of seeing Etta James perform in person, but my husband did, when he was playing with Maria Mulduar and John Lee Hooker back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Etta James will be missed, but her songs will live on.

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