Profile of Etta James
Name at birth: Jamesetta Hawkins
Etta James sang blues, jazz, country, gospel and pop hits beginning in the early 1950s, from the suggestive dancehall favorite "Roll With Me, Henry" to her signature ballad "At Last." She grew up in Los Angeles and San Francisco and began singing professionally when she was a teenager. She partnered up with bandleader Johnny Otis for her first hit in 1955, released as "Wallflower" but popularly known as "Roll With Me, Henry." Etta James recorded a variety of songs during the 1960s and kept her name on the charts with hits like "All I Could Do Was Cry," "I'd Rather Go Blind" and "Tell Mama." The hits stopped in the 1970s, but James kept performing, and in the late 1980s and '90s had a career resurgence and was recognized as a musical legend (she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993). She released Blues to the Bone (2004) and All the Way (2006), but was also plagued with health problems. James was hospitalized in 2010, and the next year was diagnosed with leukemia and dementia, requiring around-the-clock medical attention. She died less than a week before her 74th birthday.
Etta James had the nickname “Peaches”… Her stage name is a backwards version of her real name, Jamesetta… A copycat version of “Roll With Me, Henry,” called “Dance With Me, Henry,” was a big hit by Georgia Gibbs, and then a 1956 movie with comedy team Abbot and Costello… Beyoncé played Etta James in the 2008 movie Cadillac Records, but in 2009 Etta James publicly criticized Beyoncé for singing “At Last” — Etta’s song — at an inaugural ball for President Barack Obama.
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